Those beats must be precisely calibrated; even a small divergence from the metronomic rhythm can cause sudden death. Researchers have for the first time described how myosin-binding protein C ("C protein") allows the muscle fibers in the heart to work in perfect synchrony.

"This protein turns out to be really important to this process," said W. Jonathan Lederer, professor of physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Researchers have known that calcium acts as a trigger for the heartbeat, activating proteins that cause the sarcomeres - the fibrous proteins that make up heart muscle cells - to contract.

The calcium molecules are not distributed evenly across the length of each sarcomere; the molecules are released from the ends. Despite this, the sarcomeres contract uniformly but the process was a mystery. Now the researchers have found the answer in C protein.

The results appeared in the journal Science Advances.


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