Journal of molecular and cellular cardiology

A cell-penetrating phospholamban-specific RNA aptamer enhances Ca2+ transients and contractile function in cardiomyocytes.

PMID 25240642


The sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase 2a (SERCA2a)-phospholamban (PLN) system of sarcoplasmic reticulum plays a pivotal role in regulation of intracellular Ca(2+) cycling in ventricular cardiomyocytes. Given that Ca(2+) cycling is impaired in heart failure, proteins that contribute to this process are potential targets for the treatment of this condition. We have now isolated PLN-specific aptamers with a phosphorothioate-modified backbone from a library of RNA molecules containing a randomized 40-nucleotide sequence by application of the systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) protocol with a fusion protein containing the cytoplasmic region of human PLN. One of these aptamers was shortened to a 30-nucleotide oligomer (RNA-Apt30) without loss of function. RNA-Apt30 showed a high affinity for the cytoplasmic region of PLN (Kd=11 nM), but it did not bind to the phosphorylated form of PLN or to a phosphomimetic mutant. It also increased SERCA2a activity in isolated cardiac SR vesicles with an EC50 of 18 nM by relieving PLN-mediated inhibition. Conjugation of RNA-Apt30 to a cell-penetrating peptide allowed its delivery into adult rat cardiomyocytes, in which it enhanced both Ca(2+) transients and contractile function. These effects of the aptamer were also apparent in the presence of the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol. This cell-penetrating PLN aptamer may thus provide a basis for the development of new therapeutic agents for heart failure without the need for gene transfer or a change in endogenous protein expression.