Hendrikus L Granzier

Hendrikus L Granzier

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

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

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.


Granzier, H., Chandra, M., Mamidi, R., Ford, S., Hidalgo, C., Witt, C., Ottenheijm, C., Labeit, S., & Granzier, H. L. (2009). Nebulin alters cross-bridge cycling kinetics and increases thin filament activation: a novel mechanism for increasing tension and reducing tension cost. The Journal of biological chemistry, 284(45).

Nebulin is a giant filamentous F-actin-binding protein ( approximately 800 kDa) that binds along the thin filament of the skeletal muscle sarcomere. Nebulin is one of the least well understood major muscle proteins. Although nebulin is usually viewed as a structural protein, here we investigated whether nebulin plays a role in muscle contraction by using skinned muscle fiber bundles from a nebulin knock-out (NEB KO) mouse model. We measured force-pCa (-log[Ca(2+)]) and force-ATPase relations, as well as the rate of tension re-development (k(tr)) in tibialis cranialis muscle fibers. To rule out any alterations in troponin (Tn) isoform expression and/or status of Tn phosphorylation, we studied fiber bundles that had been reconstituted with bacterially expressed fast skeletal muscle recombinant Tn. We also performed a detailed analysis of myosin heavy chain, myosin light chain, and myosin light chain 2 phosphorylation, which showed no significant differences between wild type and NEB KO. Our mechanical studies revealed that NEB KO fibers had increased tension cost (5.9 versus 4.4 pmol millinewtons(-1) mm(-1) s(-1)) and reductions in k(tr) (4.7 versus 7.3 s(-1)), calcium sensitivity (pCa(50) 5.74 versus 5.90), and cooperativity of activation (n(H) 3.64 versus 4.38). Our findings indicate the following: 1) in skeletal muscle nebulin increases thin filament activation, and 2) through altering cross-bridge cycling kinetics, nebulin increases force and efficiency of contraction. These novel properties of nebulin add a new level of understanding of skeletal muscle function and provide a mechanism for the severe muscle weakness in patients with nebulin-based nemaline myopathy.

Hidalgo, C., Saripalli, C., & Granzier, H. L. (2014). Effect of exercise training on post-translational and post-transcriptional regulation of titin stiffness in striated muscle of wild type and IG KO mice. Archives of biochemistry and biophysics, 552-553, 100-7.

Exercise has beneficial effects on diastolic dysfunction but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Here we studied the effects of exercise on the elastic protein titin, an important determinant of diastolic stiffness, in both the left ventricle and the diaphragm. We used wild type mice and genetically engineered mice with HFpEF symptoms (IG KO mice), including diastolic dysfunction. In the diaphragm muscle, exercise increased the expression level of titin (increased titin:MHC ratio) which is expected to increase titin-based stiffness. This effect was absent in the LV. We also studied the constitutively expressed titin residues S11878 and S12022 that are known targets of CaMKIIδ and PKCα with increased phosphorylation resulting in an increase in titin-based passive stiffness. The phosphorylation level of S11878 was unchanged whereas S12022 responded to exercise with a reduction in the phosphorylation level in the LV and, interestingly, an increase in the diaphragm. These changes are expected to lower titin's stiffness in the LV and increase stiffness in the diaphragm. We propose that these disparate effects reflect the unique physiological needs of the two tissue types and that both effects are beneficial.

Granzier, H., Nedrud, J., Labeit, S., Gotthardt, M., & Granzier, H. L. (2011). Mechanics on myocardium deficient in the N2B region of titin: the cardiac-unique spring element improves efficiency of the cardiac cycle. Biophysical journal, 101(6).

Titin (also known as connectin) is an intrasarcomeric muscle protein that functions as a molecular spring and generates passive tension upon muscle stretch. The N2B element is a cardiac-specific spring element within titin's extensible region. Our goal was to study the contribution of the N2B element to the mechanical properties of titin, particularly its hypothesized role in limiting energy loss during repeated stretch (diastole)-shortening (systole) cycles of the heart. We studied energy loss by measuring hysteresis from the area between the stretch and release passive force-sarcomere length curves and used both wild-type (WT) mice and N2B knockout (KO) mice in which the N2B element has been deleted. A range of protocols was used, including those that mimic physiological loading conditions. KO mice showed significant increases in hysteresis. Most prominently, in tissue that had been preconditioned with a physiological stretch-release protocol, hysteresis increased significantly from 320 ± 46 pJ/mm(2)/sarcomere in WT to 650 ± 94 pJ/mm(2)/sarcomere in N2B KO myocardium. These results are supported by experiments in which oxidative stress was used to mechanically inactivate portions of the N2B-Us of WT titin through cysteine cross-linking. Studies on muscle from which the thin filaments had been extracted (using the actin severing protein gelsolin) showed that the difference in hysteresis between WT and KO tissue cannot be explained by filament sliding-based viscosity. Instead the results suggest that hysteresis arises from within titin and most likely involves unfolding of immunoglobulin-like domains. These studies support that the mechanical function of the N2B element of titin includes reducing hysteresis and increasing the efficiency of the heart.

Meng, H., Janssen, P. M., Grange, R. W., Yang, L., Beggs, A. H., Swanson, L. C., Cossette, S. A., Frase, A., Childers, M. K., Granzier, H., Gussoni, E., & Lawlor, M. W. (2014). Tissue triage and freezing for models of skeletal muscle disease. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE.

Skeletal muscle is a unique tissue because of its structure and function, which requires specific protocols for tissue collection to obtain optimal results from functional, cellular, molecular, and pathological evaluations. Due to the subtlety of some pathological abnormalities seen in congenital muscle disorders and the potential for fixation to interfere with the recognition of these features, pathological evaluation of frozen muscle is preferable to fixed muscle when evaluating skeletal muscle for congenital muscle disease. Additionally, the potential to produce severe freezing artifacts in muscle requires specific precautions when freezing skeletal muscle for histological examination that are not commonly used when freezing other tissues. This manuscript describes a protocol for rapid freezing of skeletal muscle using isopentane (2-methylbutane) cooled with liquid nitrogen to preserve optimal skeletal muscle morphology. This procedure is also effective for freezing tissue intended for genetic or protein expression studies. Furthermore, we have integrated our freezing protocol into a broader procedure that also describes preferred methods for the short term triage of tissue for (1) single fiber functional studies and (2) myoblast cell culture, with a focus on the minimum effort necessary to collect tissue and transport it to specialized research or reference labs to complete these studies. Overall, this manuscript provides an outline of how fresh tissue can be effectively distributed for a variety of phenotypic studies and thereby provides standard operating procedures (SOPs) for pathological studies related to congenital muscle disease.

Granzier, H., Lee, E., Nedrud, J., Schemmel, P., Gotthardt, M., Irving, T. C., & Granzier, H. L. (2013). Calcium sensitivity and myofilament lattice structure in titin N2B KO mice. Archives of biochemistry and biophysics, 535(1).

The cellular basis of the Frank-Starling "Law of the Heart" is the length-dependence of activation, but the mechanisms by which the sarcomere detects length changes and converts this information to altered calcium sensitivity has remained elusive. Here the effect of titin-based passive tension on the length-dependence of activation (LDA) was studied by measuring the tension-pCa relation in skinned mouse LV muscle at two sarcomere lengths (SLs). N2B KO myocardium, where the N2B spring element in titin is deleted and passive tension is elevated, was compared to WT myocardium. Myofilament lattice structure was studied with low-angle X-ray diffraction; the myofilament lattice spacing (d1,0) was measured as well as the ratio of the intensities of the 1,1 and 1,0 diffraction peaks (I1,1/I1,0) as an estimate of the degree of association of myosin heads with the thin filaments. Experiments were carried out in skinned muscle in which the lattice spacing was reduced with Dextran-T500. Experiments with and without lattice compression were also carried out following PKA phosphorylation of the skinned muscle. Under all conditions that were tested, LDA was significantly larger in N2B KO myocardium compared to WT myocardium, with the largest differences following PKA phosphorylation. A positive correlation between passive tension and LDA was found that persisted when the myofilament lattice was compressed with Dextran and that was enhanced following PKA phosphorylation. Low-angle X-ray diffraction revealed a shift in mass from thin filaments to thick filaments as sarcomere length was increased. Furthermore, a positive correlation was obtained between myofilament lattice spacing and passive tension and the change in I1,1/I1,0 and passive tension and these provide possible explanations for how titin-based passive tension might regulate calcium sensitivity.