Excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal muscle: recent progress and unanswered questions


Excitation-contraction coupling (ECC) is a physiological process that links excitation of muscles by the nervous system to their mechanical contraction. In skeletal muscle, ECC is initiated with an action potential, generated by the somatic nervous system, which causes a depolarisation of the muscle fibre membrane (sarcolemma). This leads to a rapid change in the transmembrane potential, which is detected by the voltage-gated Ca2+ channel dihydropyridine receptor (DHPR) embedded in the sarcolemma. DHPR transmits the contractile signal to another Ca2+ channel, ryanodine receptor (RyR1), embedded in the membrane of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR), which releases a large amount of Ca2+ ions from the SR that initiate muscle contraction. Despite the fundamental role of ECC in skeletal muscle function of all vertebrate species, the molecular mechanism underpinning the communication between the two key proteins involved in the process (DHPR and RyR1) is still largely unknown. The goal of this work is to review the recent progress in our understanding of ECC in skeletal muscle from the point of view of the structure and interactions of proteins involved in the process, and to highlight the unanswered questions in the field.

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Investigator Grant fellowship (GNT1173015) to DS from the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia is acknowledged. The author would like to thank A/Prof. Marco G. Casarotto and Prof. Angela F. Dulhunty for proofreading the manuscript and many useful discussions on the topic of the review.

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Shishmarev, D. Excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal muscle: recent progress and unanswered questions. Biophys Rev (2020).

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  • Excitation-contraction coupling
  • DHPR
  • CaV1.1
  • RyR1
  • STAC3