Effect of levosimendan on the contractility of muscle fibers from nemaline myopathy patients with mutations in the nebulin gene

Josine M. de Winter, Barbara Joureau, Vasco Sequeira, Nigel F. Clarke, Jolanda van der Velden, Ger J.M. Stienen, Henk Granzier, Alan H. Beggs, Coen A.C. Ottenheijm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Nemaline myopathy (NM), the most common non-dystrophic congenital myopathy, is characterized by generalized skeletal muscle weakness, often from birth. To date, no therapy exists that enhances the contractile strength of muscles of NM patients. Mutations in NEB, encoding the giant protein nebulin, are the most common cause of NM. The pathophysiology of muscle weakness in NM patients with NEB mutations (NEB-NM) includes a lower calcium-sensitivity of force generation. We propose that the lower calcium-sensitivity of force generation in NEB-NM offers a therapeutic target. Levosimendan is a calcium sensitizer that is approved for use in humans and has been developed to target cardiac muscle fibers. It exerts its effect through binding to slow skeletal/cardiac troponin C. As slow skeletal/cardiac troponin C is also the dominant troponin C isoform in slow-twitch skeletal muscle fibers, we hypothesized that levosimendan improves slow-twitch muscle fiber strength at submaximal levels of activation in patients with NEB-NM. Methods: To test whether levosimendan affects force production, permeabilized slow-twitch muscle fibers isolated from biopsies of NEB-NM patients and controls were exposed to levosimendan and the force response was measured. Results: No effect of levosimendan on muscle fiber force in NEB-NM and control skeletal muscle fibers was found, both at a submaximal calcium level using incremental levosimendan concentrations, and at incremental calcium concentrations in the presence of levosimendan. In contrast, levosimendan did significantly increase the calcium-sensitivity of force in human single cardiomyocytes. Protein analysis confirmed that the slow skeletal/cardiac troponin C isoform was present in the skeletal muscle fibers tested. Conclusions: These findings indicate that levosimendan does not improve the contractility in human skeletal muscle fibers, and do not provide rationale for using levosimendan as a therapeutic to restore muscle weakness in NEB-NM patients. We stress the importance of searching for compounds that improve the calcium-sensitivity of force generation of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Such compounds provide an appealing approach to restore muscle force in patients with NEB-NM, and also in patients with other neuromuscular disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalSkeletal muscle
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 28 2015


  • Calcium-sensitizer
  • Levosimendan
  • Muscle force
  • Muscle mechanics
  • Nebulin
  • Nemaline myopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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