This review describes several new experimental observations indicating that some of the differences thought to distinguish activation of contraction in skeletal and cardiac muscle may be in fact much less profound than are currently considered. Three such areas are considered in particular. First, it now appears that activation of the elementary units of Ca2+ release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum ('Ca2+sparks') in skeletal muscle may occur not only as the result of voltage activation but also of Ca2+ activation in a process very much like Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release (CICR) in cardiac muscle. Second, there is new evidence that activation of contraction in cardiac muscle may be partly reliant on a voltage-sensitive release mechanism (VSRM) similar to that in skeletal muscle. Third, digitalis binds to a high affinity site on the cardiac sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ release channel (ryanodine receptor RyR) causing an increase in single channel open probability which could contribute to its positive inotropic action; although mammalian skeletal muscle does not appear to share this sensitivity to cardiac glycosides, amphibian skeletal muscle has both cardiac and skeletal isoforms of the channel and does indeed demonstrate a positive inotropic action in response to digitalis. These results raise the possibility that several differences thought to represent 'fundamental' distinctions between the two muscle types and how they generate and regulate contraction, as well as pharmacological sensitivities, may be more similar than are currently considered.
- Ca sparks
- Cardiac glycosides
- Voltage sensitive release mechanism
ASJC Scopus subject areas