Depressed calcium handling by the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca-ATPase and its regulator phospholamban (PLN) is a key characteristic of human and experimental heart failure. Accumulating evidence indicates that increases in the relative levels of PLN to Ca-ATPase in failing hearts and resulting inhibition of Ca sequestration during diastole, impairs contractility. Here, we identified a genetic variant in the PLN promoter region, which increases its expression and may serve as a genetic modifier in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The variant AF177763.1:g.203A>C (at position -36bp relative to the PLN transcriptional start site) was found only in the heterozygous form in 1 out of 296 normal subjects and in 22 out of 381 cardiomyopathy patients (heart failure at age of 18-44 years, ejection fraction = 22 + 9%). In vitro analysis, using luciferase as a reporter gene in rat neonatal cardiomyocytes, indicated that the PLN-variant increased activity by 24% compared to the wild type. Furthermore, the g.203A>C substitution altered the specific sequence of the steroid receptor for the glucocorticoid nuclear receptor (GR)/transcription factor in the PLN promoter, resulting in enhanced binding to the mutated DNA site. These findings suggest that the g.203A>C genetic variant in the human PLN promoter may contribute to depressed contractility and accelerate functional deterioration in heart failure.
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