Samantha Harris
Co-Chair, ABBS Program
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Professor, Physiological Sciences - GIDP
Professor, Physiology
Primary Department
(520) 621-0291
Work Summary
The long-term goal of research in my lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms of muscle contraction. I am especially interested in how contractile proteins of muscle sarcomeres regulate the force and speed of contraction in the heart. The question is important from both basic science and clinical perspectives because mutations in sarcomere proteins of muscle are a leading cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in the young and a prevalent cause of heart failure in adults. Myosin binding protein-C (MyBP-C) is a muscle regulatory protein that speeds actomyosin cycling kinetics in response to adrenaline (b-adrenergic stimuli) and is one of the two most commonly affected proteins linked to HCM. Currently, the major research focus in my lab is understanding the mechanisms by which cMyBP-C regulates contractile speed and mechanisms by which mutations in cMyBP-C cause disease.
Research Interest
The long-term goal of research in my lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms of muscle contraction. I am especially interested in how contractile proteins of muscle sarcomeres regulate the force and speed of contraction in the heart. The question is important from both basic science and clinical perspectives because mutations in sarcomere proteins of muscle are a leading cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in the young and a prevalent cause of heart failure in adults. Myosin binding protein-C (MyBP-C) is a muscle regulatory protein that speeds actomyosin cycling kinetics in response to adrenaline (b-adrenergic stimuli) and is one of the two most commonly affected proteins linked to HCM. Currently, the major research focus in my lab is understanding the mechanisms by which cMyBP-C regulates contractile speed and mechanisms by which mutations in cMyBP-C cause disease. In pursuing these interests I have established a variety of approaches to investigate muscle contraction at molecular, cellular, and whole animal levels. Methods include single molecule atomic force microscopy (AFM), mechanical force measurements in permeabilized muscle cells, in vitro motility assays, biochemical enzyme and binding assays, immunofluorescent imaging, knockout/transgenic animal models and the development of a natural large animal model of HCM.

Publications

Kolb, J., Li, F., Methawasin, M., Adler, M., Escobar, Y. N., Nedrud, J., Pappas, C. T., Harris, S. P., & Granzier, H. (2016). Thin filament length in the cardiac sarcomere varies with sarcomere length but is independent of titin and nebulin. Journal of molecular and cellular cardiology, 97, 286-94.
BIO5 Collaborators
Hendrikus L Granzier, Samantha Harris

Thin filament length (TFL) is an important determinant of the force-sarcomere length (SL) relation of cardiac muscle. However, the various mechanisms that control TFL are not well understood. Here we tested the previously proposed hypothesis that the actin-binding protein nebulin contributes to TFL regulation in the heart by using a cardiac-specific nebulin cKO mouse model (αMHC Cre Neb cKO). Atrial myocytes were studied because nebulin expression has been reported to be most prominent in this cell type. TFL was measured in right and left atrial myocytes using deconvolution optical microscopy and staining for filamentous actin with phalloidin and for the thin filament pointed-end with an antibody to the capping protein Tropomodulin-1 (Tmod1). Results showed that TFLs in Neb cKO and littermate control mice were not different. Thus, deletion of nebulin in the heart does not alter TFL. However, TFL was found to be ~0.05μm longer in the right than in the left atrium and Tmod1 expression was increased in the right atrium. We also tested the hypothesis that the length of titin's spring region is a factor controlling TFL by studying the Rbm20(ΔRRM) mouse which expresses titins that are ~500kDa (heterozygous mice) and ~1000kDa (homozygous mice) longer than in control mice. Results revealed that TFL was not different in Rbm20(ΔRRM) mice. An unexpected finding in all genotypes studied was that TFL increased as sarcomeres were stretched (~0.1μm per 0.35μm of SL increase). This apparent increase in TFL reached a maximum at a SL of ~3.0μm where TFL was ~1.05μm. The SL dependence of TFL was independent of chemical fixation or the presence of cardiac myosin-binding protein C (cMyBP-C). In summary, we found that in cardiac myocytes TFL varies with SL in a manner that is independent of the size of titin or the presence of nebulin.

Bers, D. M., & Harris, S. P. (2011). Translational medicine: to the rescue of the failing heart. Nature, 473(7345), 36-9.
Karsai, A., Kellermayer, M. S., & Harris, S. P. (2011). Mechanical unfolding of cardiac myosin binding protein-C by atomic force microscopy. Biophysical journal, 101(8), 1968-77.

Cardiac myosin-binding protein-C (cMyBP-C) is a thick-filament-associated protein that performs regulatory and structural roles within cardiac sarcomeres. It is a member of the immunoglobulin (Ig) superfamily of proteins consisting of eight Ig- and three fibronectin (FNIII)-like domains, along with a unique regulatory sequence referred to as the M-domain, whose structure is unknown. Domains near the C-terminus of cMyBP-C bind tightly to myosin and mediate the association of cMyBP-C with thick (myosin-containing) filaments, whereas N-terminal domains, including the regulatory M-domain, bind reversibly to myosin S2 and/or actin. The ability of MyBP-C to bind to both myosin and actin raises the possibility that cMyBP-C cross-links myosin molecules within the thick filament and/or cross-links myosin and thin (actin-containing) filaments together. In either scenario, cMyBP-C could be under mechanical strain. However, the physical properties of cMyBP-C and its behavior under load are completely unknown. Here, we investigated the mechanical properties of recombinant baculovirus-expressed cMyBP-C using atomic force microscopy to assess the stability of individual cMyBP-C molecules in response to stretch. Force-extension curves showed the presence of long extensible segment(s) that became stretched before the unfolding of individual Ig and FNIII domains, which were evident as sawtooth peaks in force spectra. The forces required to unfold the Ig/FNIII domains at a stretch rate of 500 nm/s increased monotonically from ∼30 to ∼150 pN, suggesting a mechanical hierarchy among the different Ig/FNIII domains. Additional experiments using smaller recombinant proteins showed that the regulatory M-domain lacks significant secondary or tertiary structure and is likely an intrinsically disordered region of cMyBP-C. Together, these data indicate that cMyBP-C exhibits complex mechanical behavior under load and contains multiple domains with distinct mechanical properties.

McNamara, J. W., Li, A., Smith, N. J., Lal, S., Graham, R. M., Kooiker, K. B., van Dijk, S. J., Remedios, C. G., Harris, S. P., & Cooke, R. (2016). Ablation of cardiac myosin binding protein-C disrupts the super-relaxed state of myosin in murine cardiomyocytes. Journal of molecular and cellular cardiology, 94, 65-71.

Cardiac myosin binding protein-C (cMyBP-C) is a structural and regulatory component of cardiac thick filaments. It is observed in electron micrographs as seven to nine transverse stripes in the central portion of each half of the A band. Its C-terminus binds tightly to the myosin rod and contributes to thick filament structure, while the N-terminus can bind both myosin S2 and actin, influencing their structure and function. Mutations in the MYBPC3 gene (encoding cMyBP-C) are commonly associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). In cardiac cells there exists a population of myosin heads in the super-relaxed (SRX) state, which are bound to the thick filament core with a highly inhibited ATPase activity. This report examines the role cMyBP-C plays in regulating the population of the SRX state of cardiac myosin by using an assay that measures single ATP turnover of myosin. We report a significant decrease in the proportion of myosin heads in the SRX state in homozygous cMyBP-C knockout mice, however heterozygous cMyBP-C knockout mice do not significantly differ from the wild type. A smaller, non-significant decrease is observed when thoracic aortic constriction is used to induce cardiac hypertrophy in mutation negative mice. These results support the proposal that cMyBP-C stabilises the thick filament and that the loss of cMyBP-C results in an untethering of myosin heads. This results in an increased myosin ATP turnover, further consolidating the relationship between thick filament structure and the myosin ATPase.

Shaffer, J. F., Kensler, R. W., & Harris, S. P. (2009). The myosin-binding protein C motif binds to F-actin in a phosphorylation-sensitive manner. The Journal of biological chemistry, 284(18), 12318-27.

Cardiac myosin-binding protein C (cMyBP-C) is a regulatory protein expressed in cardiac sarcomeres that is known to interact with myosin, titin, and actin. cMyBP-C modulates actomyosin interactions in a phosphorylation-dependent way, but it is unclear whether interactions with myosin, titin, or actin are required for these effects. Here we show using cosedimentation binding assays, that the 4 N-terminal domains of murine cMyBP-C (i.e. C0-C1-m-C2) bind to F-actin with a dissociation constant (K(d)) of approximately 10 microm and a molar binding ratio (B(max)) near 1.0, indicating 1:1 (mol/mol) binding to actin. Electron microscopy and light scattering analyses show that these domains cross-link F-actin filaments, implying multiple sites of interaction with actin. Phosphorylation of the MyBP-C regulatory motif, or m-domain, reduced binding to actin (reduced B(max)) and eliminated actin cross-linking. These results suggest that the N terminus of cMyBP-C interacts with F-actin through multiple distinct binding sites and that binding at one or more sites is reduced by phosphorylation. Reversible interactions with actin could contribute to effects of cMyBP-C to increase cross-bridge cycling.