Calmodulin (CaM) plays a critical role in intracellular signaling and regulation of Ca2+-dependent proteins and ion channels. Mutations in CaM cause life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Among the known CaM targets, small-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (SK) channels are unique, since they are gated solely by beat-to-beat changes in intracellular Ca2+. However, the molecular mechanisms of how CaM mutations may affect the function of SK channels remain incompletely understood. To address the structural and functional effects of these mutations, we introduced prototypical human CaM mutations in human induced pluripotent stem cell–derived cardiomyocyte-like cells (hiPSC-CMs). Using structural modeling and molecular dynamics simulation, we demonstrate that human calmodulinopathy-associated CaM mutations disrupt cardiac SK channel function via distinct mechanisms. CaMD96V and CaMD130G mutants reduce SK currents through a dominant-negative fashion. By contrast, specific mutations replacing phenylalanine with leucine result in conformational changes that affect helix packing in the C-lobe, which disengage the interactions between apo-CaM and the CaM-binding domain of SK channels. Distinct mutant CaMs may result in a significant reduction in the activation of the SK channels, leading to a decrease in the key Ca2+-dependent repolarization currents these channels mediate. The findings in this study may be generalizable to other interactions of mutant CaMs with Ca2+-dependent proteins within cardiac myocytes.

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