Cardiac contraction, calcium transients, and myofilament calcium sensitivity fluctuate with the estrous cycle in young adult female mice.

Jennifer K MacDonald, W Glen Pyle, Cristine J Reitz, Susan E Howlett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This study established conditions to induce regular estrous cycles in female C57BL/6J mice and investigated the impact of the estrous cycle on contractions, Ca2+ transients, and underlying cardiac excitation-contraction (EC)-coupling mechanisms. Daily vaginal smears from group-housed virgin female mice were stained to distinguish estrous stage (proestrus, estrus, metestrus, diestrus). Ventricular myocytes were isolated from anesthetized mice. Contractions and Ca2+ transients were measured simultaneously (4 Hz, 37 °C). Interestingly, mice did not exhibit regular cycles unless they were exposed to male pheromones in bedding added to their cages. Field-stimulated myocytes from mice in estrus had larger contractions (∼2-fold increase), larger Ca2+ transients (∼1.11-fold increase), and longer action potentials (>2-fold increase) compared with other stages. Larger contractions and Ca2+ transients were not observed in estrus myocytes voltage-clamped with shorter action potentials. Voltage-clamp experiments also demonstrated that estrous stage had no effect on Ca2+ current, EC-coupling gain, diastolic Ca2+, sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ content, or fractional release. Although contractions were largest in estrus, myofilament Ca2+ sensitivity was lowest (EC50 values ∼1.15-fold higher) in conjunction with increased phosphorylation of myosin binding protein C in estrus. Contractions were enhanced in ventricular myocytes from mice in estrus because action potential prolongation increased SR Ca2+ release. These findings demonstrate that cyclical changes in reproductive hormones associated with the estrous cycle can influence myocardial electrical and contractile function and modify Ca2+ homeostasis. However, such changes are unlikely to occur in female mice housed in groups under conventional conditions, since these mice do not exhibit regular estrous cycles.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


    • gender
    • sex
    • sex hormones


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