Trypanosoma brucei cathepsin-L increases arrhythmogenic sarcoplasmic reticulum-mediated calcium release in rat cardiomyocytes

Elspeth B Elliott, Douglas McCarroll, Hisashi Hasumi, Claire E Welsh, Amanda A Panissidi, Nathaniel G Jones, Charlotte L Rossor, Andy Tait, Godfrey L Smith, Jeremy C Mottram, Liam J Morrison, Christopher M Loughrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIMS: African trypanosomiasis, caused by Trypanosoma brucei species, leads to both neurological and cardiac dysfunction and can be fatal if untreated. While the neurological-related pathogenesis is well studied, the cardiac pathogenesis remains unknown. The current study exposed isolated ventricular cardiomyocytes and adult rat hearts to T. brucei to test whether trypanosomes can alter cardiac function independent of a systemic inflammatory/immune response.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Using confocal imaging, T. brucei and T. brucei culture media (supernatant) caused an increased frequency of arrhythmogenic spontaneous diastolic sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR)-mediated Ca(2+) release (Ca(2+) waves) in isolated adult rat ventricular cardiomyocytes. Studies utilising inhibitors, recombinant protein and RNAi all demonstrated that this altered SR function was due to T. brucei cathepsin-L (TbCatL). Separate experiments revealed that TbCatL induced a 10-15% increase of SERCA activity but reduced SR Ca(2+) content, suggesting a concomitant increased SR-mediated Ca(2+) leak. This conclusion was supported by data demonstrating that TbCatL increased Ca(2+) wave frequency. These effects were abolished by autocamtide-2-related inhibitory peptide, highlighting a role for CaMKII in the TbCatL action on SR function. Isolated Langendorff perfused whole heart experiments confirmed that supernatant caused an increased number of arrhythmic events.

CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate for the first time that African trypanosomes alter cardiac function independent of a systemic immune response, via a mechanism involving extracellular cathepsin-L-mediated changes in SR function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-35
Number of pages11
JournalCardiovascular research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac/etiology
  • Calcium/metabolism
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2/physiology
  • Cathepsin L/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Male
  • Myocardial Contraction
  • Myocytes, Cardiac/metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta/physiology
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum/physiology
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei/enzymology

Cite this