PMID: 2580874May 1, 1985Paper

Cellular mechanism of action of cardiac glycosides

Journal of the American College of Cardiology
H A Fozzard, M F Sheets


It has long been known that cardiac glycosides can inhibit the membrane sodium-potassium (Na+-K+) pump, raising intracellular Na+. However, at clinical concentrations of cardiac glycosides, a change in intracellular Na+ that correlates with a change in cardiac contraction has been very difficult to demonstrate. The recent use of Na+-sensitive microelectrodes in the experimental laboratory has made intracellular Na+ measurements possible. A doubling of contraction strength in vitro is associated with a change of only approximately 1 mM intracellular Na+. Another membrane transport system, the Na+-Ca2+ exchange system, exchanges extracellular Na+ for intracellular Ca2+. If this system is responsible for regulating intracellular Ca2+, then it would be very sensitive to the transmembrane Na+ concentration gradient. This influence of intracellular Na+ on Na+-Ca2+ exchange is though to be the cellular basis of the positive inotropic action of digitalis. However, a number of issues remain unresolved, such as the extent of Na+-K+ pump inhibition by the level of cardiac glycoside achieved clinically.


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