Hendrikus L Granzier

Hendrikus L Granzier

Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Professor, Genetics - GIDP
Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology
Professor, Physiological Sciences - GIDP
Professor, Physiology
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-3641

Work Summary

Work Summary
Our research is focused on elucidating the structure and function of titin and nebulin, two large filamentous proteins found in muscle. We use a range of model systems with a major focus on KO and TG mouse models. The techniques that we use range from single molecule mechanics, (immuno) electron microscopy, exon microarray analysis, in vitro motility assays, low angle X-ray diffraction, cell physiology (including calcium imaging), muscle mechanics, and isolated heart physiology.

Research Interest

Research Interest
Hendrikus Granzier, PhD, studies the mechanisms whereby the giant filamentous protein titin (the largest protein known) influence muscle structure and function. His lab has shown that titin functions as a molecular spring that mediates acute responses to changing pathophysiological states of the heart. They also study the role of titin in cardiac disease, using mouse models with specific modifications in the titin gene, including deciphering the mechanisms that are responsible for gender differences in diastolic dysfunction. An additional focus of Dr. Granzier’s lab is on nebulin, a major muscle protein that causes a severe skeletal muscle disease in humans. Based on previous work, they hypothesize that nebulin is a determinant of calcium sensitivity of contractile force. To test this and other concepts, he uses a nebulin knockout approach in the mouse. Research is multi-faceted and uses cutting-edge techniques at levels ranging across the single molecule, single cell, muscle, and the intact heart. His research group is diverse and has brought together individuals from several continents with expertise ranging from physics and chemistry to cell biology and physiology.


Pappas, C. T., Mayfield, R. M., Henderson, C., Jamilpour, N., Cover, C., Hernandez, Z., Hutchinson, K. R., Chu, M., Nam, K., Valdez, J. M., Wong, P. K., Granzier, H. L., & Gregorio, C. C. (2015). Knockout of Lmod2 results in shorter thin filaments followed by dilated cardiomyopathy and juvenile lethality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(44), 13573-8.

Leiomodin 2 (Lmod2) is an actin-binding protein that has been implicated in the regulation of striated muscle thin filament assembly; its physiological function has yet to be studied. We found that knockout of Lmod2 in mice results in abnormally short thin filaments in the heart. We also discovered that Lmod2 functions to elongate thin filaments by promoting actin assembly and dynamics at thin filament pointed ends. Lmod2-KO mice die as juveniles with hearts displaying contractile dysfunction and ventricular chamber enlargement consistent with dilated cardiomyopathy. Lmod2-null cardiomyocytes produce less contractile force than wild type when plated on micropillar arrays. Introduction of GFP-Lmod2 via adeno-associated viral transduction elongates thin filaments and rescues structural and functional defects observed in Lmod2-KO mice, extending their lifespan to adulthood. Thus, to our knowledge, Lmod2 is the first identified mammalian protein that functions to elongate actin filaments in the heart; it is essential for cardiac thin filaments to reach a mature length and is required for efficient contractile force and proper heart function during development.

Hinze, F., Dieterich, C., Radke, M. H., Granzier, H., & Gotthardt, M. (2016). Reducing RBM20 activity improves diastolic dysfunction and cardiac atrophy. Journal of molecular medicine (Berlin, Germany), 94(12), 1349-1358.

Impaired diastolic filling is a main contributor to heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), a syndrome with increasing prevalence and no treatment. Both collagen and the giant sarcomeric protein titin determine diastolic function. Since titin's elastic properties can be adjusted physiologically, we evaluated titin-based stiffness as a therapeutic target. We adjusted RBM20-dependent cardiac isoform expression in the titin N2B knockout mouse with increased ventricular stiffness. A ~50 % reduction of RBM20 activity does not only maintain cardiac filling in diastole but also ameliorates cardiac atrophy and thus improves cardiac function in the N2B-deficient heart. Reduced RBM20 activity partially normalized gene expression related to muscle development and fatty acid metabolism. The adaptation of cardiac growth was related to hypertrophy signaling via four-and-a-half lim-domain proteins (FHLs) that translate mechanical input into hypertrophy signals. We provide a novel link between cardiac isoform expression and trophic signaling via FHLs and suggest cardiac splicing as a therapeutic target in diastolic dysfunction.

Granzier, H., Lee, E., De Winter, J. M., Buck, D., Jasper, J. R., Malik, F. I., Labeit, S., Ottenheijm, C. A., & Granzier, H. L. (2013). Fast skeletal muscle troponin activation increases force of mouse fast skeletal muscle and ameliorates weakness due to nebulin-deficiency. PloS one, 8(2).

The effect of the fast skeletal muscle troponin activator, CK-2066260, on calcium-induced force development was studied in skinned fast skeletal muscle fibers from wildtype (WT) and nebulin deficient (NEB KO) mice. Nebulin is a sarcomeric protein that when absent (NEB KO mouse) or present at low levels (nemaline myopathy (NM) patients with NEB mutations) causes muscle weakness. We studied the effect of fast skeletal troponin activation on WT muscle and tested whether it might be a therapeutic mechanism to increase muscle strength in nebulin deficient muscle. We measured tension-pCa relations with and without added CK-2066260. Maximal active tension in NEB KO tibialis cranialis fibers in the absence of CK-2066260 was ∼60% less than in WT fibers, consistent with earlier work. CK-2066260 shifted the tension-calcium relationship leftwards, with the largest relative increase (up to 8-fold) at low to intermediate calcium levels. This was a general effect that was present in both WT and NEB KO fiber bundles. At pCa levels above ∼6.0 (i.e., calcium concentrations

Joureau, B., de Winter, J. M., Stam, K., Granzier, H., & Ottenheijm, C. A. (2017). Muscle weakness in respiratory and peripheral skeletal muscles in a mouse model for nebulin-based nemaline myopathy. Neuromuscular disorders : NMD, 27(1), 83-89.

Nemaline myopathy is among the most common non-dystrophic congenital myopathies, and is characterized by the presence of nemaline rods in skeletal muscles fibers, general muscle weakness, and hypotonia. Although respiratory failure is the main cause of death in nemaline myopathy, only little is known regarding the contractile strength of the diaphragm, the main muscle of inspiration. To investigate diaphragm contractility, in the present study we took advantage of a mouse model for nebulin-based nemaline myopathy that we recently developed. In this mouse model, exon 55 of Neb is deleted (NebΔExon55), a mutation frequently found in patients. Diaphragm contractility was determined in permeabilized muscle fibers and was compared to the contractility of permeabilized fibers from three peripheral skeletal muscles: soleus, extensor digitorum longus, and gastrocnemius. The force generating capacity of diaphragm muscle fibers of NebΔExon55 mice was reduced to 25% of wildtype levels, indicating severe contractile weakness. The contractile weakness of diaphragm fibers was more pronounced than that observed in soleus muscle, but not more pronounced than that observed in extensor digitorum longus and gastrocnemius muscles. The reduced muscle contractility was at least partly caused by changes in cross-bridge cycling kinetics which reduced the number of bound cross-bridges. The severe diaphragm weakness likely contributes to the development of respiratory failure in NebΔExon55 mice and might explain their early, postnatal death.

Granzier, H., Lewinter, M. M., & Granzier, H. L. (2013). Cardiac Titin and Heart Disease. Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology.

The giant sarcomeric protein titin is a key determinant of myocardial passive stiffness and stress sensitive signaling. Titin stiffness is modulated by isoform variation, phosphorylation by protein kinases and possibly oxidative stress through disulfide bond formation. Titin has also emerged as an important human disease gene. Early studies in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) revealed shifts toward more compliant isoforms, an adaptation that offsets increases in passive stiffness based in the extracellular matrix. Similar shifts are observed in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). In contrast, hypophosphorylation of PKA/G sites contributes to a net increase in cardiomyocyte resting tension in HFpEF. More recently, titin mutations have been recognized as the most common etiology of inherited DCM. In addition, some DCM-causing mutations affect RBM20, a titin splice factor. Titin mutations are a rare cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and also underlie some cases of arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia. Finally, mutations of genes encoding proteins that interact with and/or bind to titin are responsible for both DCM and HCM. Targeting titin as a therapeutic strategy is in its infancy, but could potentially involve manipulation of isoforms, post-translational modifications, and up-regulation of normal protein in patients with disease causing mutations.