A Coupled SYSTEM of intracellular Ca2+ clocks and surface membrane voltage clocks controls the timekeeping mechanism of the heart's pacemaker

Edward G. Lakatta, Victor A. Maltsev, Tatiana M. Vinogradova

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Ion channels on the surface membrane of sinoatrial nodal pacemaker cells (SANCs) are the proximal cause of an action potential. Each individual channel type has been thoroughly characterized under voltage clamp, and the ensemble of the ion channel currents reconstructed in silico generates rhythmic action potentials. Thus, this ensemble can be envisioned as a surface "membrane clock" (M clock). Localized subsarcolemmal Ca2+ releases are generated by the sarcoplasmic reticulum via ryanodine receptors during late diastolic depolarization and are referred to as an intracellular "C 2+ clock," because their spontaneous occurrence is periodic during voltage clamp or in detergent-permeabilized SANCs, and in silico as well. In spontaneously firing SANCs, the M and C2+ clocks do not operate in isolation but work together via numerous interactions modulated by membrane voltage, subsarcolemmal C2+, and protein kinase A and C 2+MKII-dependent protein phosphorylation. Through these interactions, the 2 subsystem clocks become mutually entrained to form a robust, stable, coupled-clock system that drives normal cardiac pacemaker cell automaticity. G protein-coupled receptors signaling creates pacemaker flexibility, ie, effects changes in the rhythmic action potential firing rate, by impacting on these very same factors that regulate robust basal coupled-clock system function. This review examines evidence that forms the basis of this coupled-clock system concept in cardiac SANCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-673
Number of pages15
JournalCirculation research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ion channels
  • Local Ca releases
  • Ryanodine receptors
  • Sarcoplasmic reticulum
  • Sinoatrial node cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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