The degradation of troponin (Tn) subunits by calpain was studied by incubating either isolated cardiac Tns or myocardial cryosections with two different calpain isoenzymes isolated from rat skeletal muscle. Western-blot analysis with monoclonal antibodies against TnI and TnT showed that mu-calpain was at least ten times more active than m-calpain in degrading TnI and TnT both in vitro and in situ. TnC was completely resistant to both proteinase forms. Phosphorylation by cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) isolated from rat skeletal muscle reduced the sensitivity of TnI to degradation. This effect in combination with an increased efficiency of the endogenous inhibitor [Salamino, De Tullio, Michetti, Mengotti, Melloni and Pontremoli (1994) Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 199, 1326-1332] probably reduces the proteolytic activity of calpain in cells on PKA stimulation. Conversely, phosphorylation by protein kinase C (PKC) resulted in a twofold increase in the degradation of TnI. Degradation by m-calpain was not modified by Tn phosphorylation. The different sensitivity to mu-calpain might be related to changes in TnI oligomeric structure. Indeed, on PKC phosphorylation, the apparent molecular mass of TnI calculated from the distribution coefficient of Tn complex in Sephadex G-100 matrix was reduced from 90 to 30 kDa suggesting dissociation of the Tn complex.

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