Physiological Reviews

Dynamic of Ion Channel Expression at the Plasma Membrane of Cardiomyocytes

Elise Balse, David F. Steele, Hugues Abriel, Alain Coulombe, David Fedida, Stéphane N. Hatem


Cardiac myocytes are characterized by distinct structural and functional entities involved in the generation and transmission of the action potential and the excitation-contraction coupling process. Key to their function is the specific organization of ion channels and transporters to and within distinct membrane domains, which supports the anisotropic propagation of the depolarization wave. This review addresses the current knowledge on the molecular actors regulating the distinct trafficking and targeting mechanisms of ion channels in the highly polarized cardiac myocyte. In addition to ubiquitous mechanisms shared by other excitable cells, cardiac myocytes show unique specialization, illustrated by the molecular organization of myocyte-myocyte contacts, e.g., the intercalated disc and the gap junction. Many factors contribute to the specialization of the cardiac sarcolemma and the functional expression of cardiac ion channels, including various anchoring proteins, motors, small GTPases, membrane lipids, and cholesterol. The discovery of genetic defects in some of these actors, leading to complex cardiac disorders, emphasizes the importance of trafficking and targeting of ion channels to cardiac function. A major challenge in the field is to understand how these and other actors work together in intact myocytes to fine-tune ion channel expression and control cardiac excitability.

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