Alexander H Maass

University of Wuerzburg, Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany

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Publications (21)118.84 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Voltage-gated sodium channels composed of a pore-forming α subunit and auxiliary β subunits are responsible for the upstroke of the action potential in cardiac muscle. However, their localization and expression patterns in human myocardium have not yet been clearly defined. We used immunohistochemical methods to define the level of expression and the subcellular localization of sodium channel α and β subunits in human atrial myocytes. Nav1.2 channels are located in highest density at intercalated disks where β1 and β3 subunits are also expressed. Nav1.4 and the predominant Nav1.5 channels are located in a striated pattern on the cell surface at the z-lines together with β2 subunits. Nav1.1, Nav1.3, Nav1.6 channels are located in scattered puncta on the cell surface in a pattern similar to β3 and β4 subunits. Nav1.5 comprised approximately 88% of the total sodium channel staining, as assessed by quantitative immunohistochemistry. Functional studies using whole cell patch-clamp recording and measurements of contractility in human atrial cells and tissue showed that TTX-sensitive (non-NaV1.5) α subunit isoforms account for up to 27% of total sodium current in human atrium and are required for maximal contractility. Overall, our results show that multiple sodium channel α and β subunits are differentially localized in subcellular compartments in human atrial myocytes, suggesting that they play distinct roles in initiation and conduction of the action potential and in excitation-contraction coupling. TTX-sensitive sodium channel isoforms, even though expressed at low levels relative to TTX-sensitive NaV1.5, contribute substantially to total cardiac sodium current and are required for normal contractility.
    Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology 05/2013; · 5.15 Impact Factor
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    Alexander H Maass, Sebastian K G Maier
    Circulation 08/2011; 124(9):e249; author reply e251. · 14.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Voltage-gated sodium channels are composed of pore-forming alpha- and auxiliary beta-subunits and are responsible for the rapid depolarization of cardiac action potentials. Recent evidence indicates that neuronal tetrodotoxin (TTX) sensitive sodium channel alpha-subunits are expressed in the heart in addition to the predominant cardiac TTX-resistant Na(v)1.5 sodium channel alpha-subunit. These TTX-sensitive isoforms are preferentially localized in the transverse tubules of rodents. Since neonatal cardiomyocytes have yet to develop transverse tubules, we determined the complement of sodium channel subunits expressed in these cells. Neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes were stained with antibodies specific for individual isoforms of sodium channel alpha- and beta-subunits. alpha-actinin, a component of the z-line, was used as an intracellular marker of sarcomere boundaries. TTX-sensitive sodium channel alpha-subunit isoforms Na(v)1.1, Na(v)1.2, Na(v)1.3, Na(v)1.4 and Na(v)1.6 were detected in neonatal rat heart but at levels reduced compared to the predominant cardiac alpha-subunit isoform, Na(v)1.5. Each of the beta-subunit isoforms (beta1-beta4) was also expressed in neonatal cardiac cells. In contrast to adult cardiomyocytes, the alpha-subunits are distributed in punctate clusters across the membrane surface of neonatal cardiomyocytes; no isoform-specific subcellular localization is observed. Voltage clamp recordings in the absence and presence of 20 nM TTX provided functional evidence for the presence of TTX-sensitive sodium current in neonatal ventricular myocardium which represents between 20 and 30% of the current, depending on membrane potential and experimental conditions. Thus, as in the adult heart, a range of sodium channel alpha-subunits are expressed in neonatal myocytes in addition to the predominant TTX-resistant Na(v)1.5 alpha-subunit and they contribute to the total sodium current.
    Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology 06/2009; 48(1):261-9. · 5.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common form of sudden death in young competitive athletes. However, exercise has also been shown to be beneficial in the setting of other cardiac diseases. We examined the ability of voluntary exercise to prevent or reverse the phenotypes of a murine model of HCM harboring a mutant myosin heavy chain (MyHC). No differences in voluntary cage wheel performance between nontransgenic (NTG) and HCM male mice were seen. Exercise prevented fibrosis, myocyte disarray, and induction of "hypertrophic" markers including NFAT activity when initiated before established HCM pathology. If initiated in older HCM animals with documented disease, exercise reversed myocyte disarray (but not fibrosis) and "hypertrophic" marker induction. In addition, exercise returned the increased levels of phosphorylated GSK-3beta to those of NTG and decreased levels of phosphorylated CREB in HCM mice to normal levels. Exercise in HCM mice also favorably impacted components of the apoptotic signaling pathway, including Bcl-2 (an inhibitor of apoptosis) and procaspase-9 (an effector of apoptosis) expression, and caspase-3 activity. Remarkably, there were no differences in mortality between exercised NTG and HCM mice. Thus, not only was exercise not harmful but also it was able to prevent and even reverse established cardiac disease phenotypes in this HCM model.
    Circulation Research 04/2006; 98(4):540-8. · 11.09 Impact Factor
  • Heart Rhythm. 01/2006; 3(5):S33–S34.
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    ABSTRACT: Hypertrophy represents the major physiological response of the heart to adapt to chronically enhanced workload, but is also crucial in the development of heart failure. Although we know of numerous inducers of cardiac hypertrophy, little is known about mechanisms that limit cardiac hypertrophy. Here, we describe the transcriptional repressor NAB1 as an endogenous regulator of cardiac growth. We identified NAB1 as being upregulated in both mouse and human heart failure. Nab1 is highly expressed in mammalian cardiac myocytes and it inhibited cardiomyocyte hypertrophy through repression of its targets, transcription factor Egr. Transgenic mice with cardiac-specific overexpression of Nab1 showed that Nab1 is a potent inhibitor of cardiac growth in response to pathological stimuli in vivo. Nab1 overexpression suppressed adrenergically induced and pressure overload-induced hypertrophy, whereas physiological growth during development and in response to exercise was not affected. These findings implicate the Nab1-Egr1 axis as a crucial regulator of pathological cardiac growth.
    Nature Medicine 09/2005; 11(8):837-44. · 28.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The calcineurin/nuclear factor of activated T-cell (NFAT) pathway represents a crucial transducer of cellular function. There is increasing evidence placing the sarcolemmal calcium pump, or plasma membrane calcium/calmodulin ATPase pump (PMCA), as a potential modulator of signal transduction pathways. We demonstrate a novel interaction between PMCA and the calcium/calmodulin-dependent phosphatase, calcineurin, in mammalian cells. The interaction domains were located to the catalytic domain of PMCA4b and the catalytic domain of the calcineurin A subunit. Endogenous calcineurin activity, assessed by measuring the transcriptional activity of its best characterized substrate, NFAT, was significantly inhibited by 60% in the presence of ectopic PMCA4b. This inhibition was notably reversed by the co-expression of the PMCA4b interaction domain, demonstrating the functional significance of this interaction. PMCA4b was, however, unable to confer its inhibitory effect in the presence of a calcium/calmodulin-independent constitutively active mutant calcineurin A suggesting a calcium/calmodulin-dependent mechanism. The modulatory function of PMCA4b is further supported by the observation that endogenous calcineurin moves from the cytoplasm to the plasma membrane when PMCA4b is overexpressed. We suggest recruitment by PMCA4b of calcineurin to a low calcium environment as a possible explanation for these findings. In summary, our results offer strong evidence for a novel functional interaction between PMCA and calcineurin, suggesting a role for PMCA as a negative modulator of calcineurin-mediated signaling pathways in mammalian cells. This study reinforces the emerging role of PMCA as a molecular organizer and regulator of signaling transduction pathways.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 09/2005; 280(33):29479-87. · 4.60 Impact Factor
  • Alexander H Maass, Sebastian K G Maier
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    ABSTRACT: The authors have created transgenic mouse models of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with mutations in either cardiac troponin T or myosin heavy chain. Mice mutant in myosin heavy chain develop significant cardiac hypertrophy at young adult age. Female mice keep that hypertrophic state, whereas male mice undergo progressive dilatation and exhibit systolic dysfunction at older age. Mice mutant in troponin, however, exhibit no baseline hypertrophy. When put under chronic adrenergic stress, all male mice die suddenly, whereas female mice show no mortality. These examples highlight the aggravated phenotype in male mice modeling hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and are a starting point to new mechanistic experiments.
    Herz 09/2005; 30(5):405-8. · 0.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cardiomyocytes are notoriously difficult to transfect using standard techniques unless viral vectors such as recombinant adenoviruses are used. Generation of recombinant adenoviruses is, however, a complex and time-consuming procedure and not possible for every DNA construct. We therefore optimized DNA/polylysine/adenovirus complexing for efficient gene transfer in neonatal rat cardiomyocytes determining the critical parameters for this method. Importantly, not only the concentration of the various components but also the method used for plasmid purification is critical for this transfection technique. Cesium-chloride-purified DNA is inferior to anion-exchange methods for this purpose possibly because of altered ionic properties. In the second part of this study, we could demonstrate silent gene transfer into cardiomyocytes applying this optimized technique to plasmids encoding luciferase or beta-galactosidase cDNAs under the control of the cytomegalovirus immediate-early promoter. Phorbol myristate acetate and/or forskolin increased the amount of beta-galactosidase positive cells up to fivefold. Luciferase activity could even be increased as much as ninefold. These results demonstrate that the cytomegalovirus promoter is not maximally active in neonatal rat cardiomyocytes under basal conditions. In fact, a large proportion of cells is silently transfected and seems to express (an) inhibitor(s) of transcription from the CMV promoter that can be overcome by stimulation of cAMP- or protein kinase C-dependent pathways.
    DNA and Cell Biology 07/2005; 24(6):381-7. · 1.99 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Biological Chemistry. 06/2005;
  • European Journal of Heart Failure Supplements 06/2005; 4(S1).
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    ABSTRACT: How an individual's sex and genetic background modify cardiac adaptation to increased workload is a topic of great interest. We systematically evaluated morphological and physiological cardiac adaptation in response to voluntary and forced exercise. We found that sex/gender is a dominant factor in exercise performance (in two exercise paradigms and two mouse strains) and that females of one of these strains have greater capacity to increase their cardiac mass in response to similar amounts of exercise. To explore the biochemical mechanisms for these differences, we examined signaling pathways previously implicated in cardiac hypertrophy. Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK) activity was significantly greater in males compared with females and increased after voluntary cage-wheel exposure in both sexes, but the proportional increase in CaMK activity was twofold higher in females compared with males. Phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK-3beta) was evident after 7 days of cage-wheel exposure in both sexes and remained elevated in females only by 21 days of exercise. Despite moderate increases in myocyte enhancer factor-2 (a downstream effector of CaMK) transcriptional activity and phosphorylation of Akt with exercise, there were no sex differences. Mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling components (p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and extracellular regulated kinase 1/2) were not different between male and female mice and were not affected by exercise. We conclude that females have increased exercise capacity and increased hypertrophic response to exercise. We have also identified sex-specific differences in hypertrophic signaling within the cardiac myocyte that may contribute to sexual dimorphism in exercise and cardiac adaptation to exercise.
    AJP Heart and Circulatory Physiology 01/2005; 287(6):H2768-76. · 4.01 Impact Factor
  • Alexander H. Maass, Sebastian K. G. Maier
    Herz 01/2005; 30(5):405-408. · 0.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transgenic mouse models expressing a missense mutation (R92Q) or a splice donor site mutation (trunc) in the cardiac troponin T (cTnT) model familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (FHC) in humans. Although males from these strains share the unusual property of having significantly smaller ventricles and cardiac myocytes, they differ with regard to systolic function, fibrosis, and gene expression. Little is known about how these phenotypes affect the responses to additional pathological stimuli. We tested the ability of hearts of both sexes of wild-type and mutant mice to respond to defined pathological, pharmacological, hypertrophic stimuli in vivo. Hearts of mutant cTnT models of both sexes were able to undergo hypertrophy in response to at least one stimulus, but the extent differed between the 2 mutants and was sex specific. Interestingly, the trunc-mutant mouse heart was resistant to the development of fibrosis in response to pharmacological stimuli. Stimulation with 2 adrenergic agonists led to sudden cardiac death of all male but not female mutant animals, which suggests altered adrenergic responsiveness in these 2 models of FHC. Hypertrophic signaling is differentially affected by distinct mutations in cTnT and is sex modified. Hearts can respond with either an augmented hypertrophic and fibrotic response or a diminished hypertrophy and resistance to fibrosis. Sudden cardiac death is related to adrenergic stress and is independent of the development of fibrosis but occurred only in male mice. These results suggest that patients with certain TnT mutations may respond to certain pathological situations with a worsened phenotype.
    Circulation 11/2004; 110(15):2102-9. · 14.95 Impact Factor
  • Alexander H Maass, Leslie A Leinwand
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in cardiac troponin T (cTnT) cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy characterized by comparatively little cardiac hypertrophy, but a high incidence of sudden cardiac death. Transgenic mice modeling this disease have smaller cardiomyocytes, leading to smaller hearts. However, different mutations in cTnT have distinct phenotypes with respect to fibrosis, induction of molecular markers, and systolic function. Such models ideally allow for testing of the role of individual phenotypes in the pathways leading to cardiomyopathy, as well as identification of factors such as exercise that can affect the disease.
    Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine 09/2003; 13(6):232-7. · 2.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cardiomyocytes (CMCs) are extremely difficult to transfect with non-viral techniques, but they are efficiently infected by adenoviruses. The most commonly used promoters to drive protein expression in cardiac myocytes are of viral origin, since they are believed to be constitutively active and minimally regulated by physiological or pharmacological challenge of cells. In recombinant adenoviruses, we systematically compared three different promoters: the cytomegalovirus (CMV), the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV), and a synthetic promoter with three MEF2 transcription factor-binding sites upstream of the heat-shock protein 68 minimal promoter. We determined their basal activity in primary cardiac cells as well as their possible stimulation by commonly used agonists. The CMV promoter was activated up to 60-fold by the phorbol ester phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) and/or forskolin in neonatal rat CMCs and cardiac fibroblasts. Primary adult rat CMCs had higher basal expression from the CMV promoter that was not activated by PMA or forskolin. The RSV promoter was less affected by agonists and was more active in cardiac myocytes compared to cardiac fibroblasts. The MEF2-responsive promoter showed high basal expression in both myocytes and fibroblasts, and minimal induction by phorbol esters and forskolin. The relevance of reporter gene induction was confirmed with a contractile protein, troponin T (TnT). The CMV promoter driving TnT could be induced more than 15-fold with phenylephrine or forskolin to replace the endogenous protein almost to completion at a multiplicity of infection of 10. These results suggest the following use of the tested promoters: an inducible system (CMV), a myocyte-enriched system (RSV), or a stable control system (MEF2).
    Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology 08/2003; 35(7):823-31. · 5.22 Impact Factor
  • Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 02/2002; 67:409-15.
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    Alexander Maass, Leslie A. Leinwand
    Journal of Clinical Investigation 06/2001; 107(10):1223-5. · 13.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we describe the effects of voluntary cage wheel exercise on mouse cardiac and skeletal muscle. Inbred male C57/Bl6 mice (age 6-8 wk; n = 12) [corrected] ran an average of 4.3 h/24 h, for an average distance of 6.8 km/24 h, and at an average speed of 26.4 m/min. A significant increase in the ratio of heart mass to body mass (mg/g) was evident after 2 wk of voluntary exercise, and cardiac atrial natriuretic factor and brain natriuretic peptide mRNA levels were significantly increased in the ventricles after 4 wk of voluntary exercise. A significant increase in the percentage of fibers expressing myosin heavy chain (MHC) IIa was observed in both the gastrocnemius and the tibialis anterior (TA) by 2 wk, and a significant decrease in the percentage of fibers expressing IIb MHC was evident in both muscles after 4 wk of voluntary exercise. The TA muscle showed a greater increase in the percentage of IIa MHC-expressing fibers than did the gastrocnemius muscle (40 and 20%, respectively, compared with 10% for nonexercised). Finally, the number of oxidative fibers as revealed by NADH-tetrazolium reductase histochemical staining was increased in the TA but not the gastrocnemius after 4 wk of voluntary exercise. All results are relative to age-matched mice housed without access to running wheels. Together these data demonstrate that voluntary exercise in mice results in cardiac and skeletal muscle adaptations consistent with endurance exercise.
    Journal of Applied Physiology 06/2001; 90(5):1900-8. · 3.43 Impact Factor
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    A Maass, L A Leinwand
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    ABSTRACT: Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (FHC) is an autosomal-dominant disease that is both clinically and genetically heterogeneous. Disease-causing mutations have been found in eight genes encoding structural components of the thick and thin filament systems of the cardiac myocyte; it has therefore been coined a disease of the sarcomere. How each mutation leads to the diverse clinical phenotypes is still obscure, and research in this area is very active. Many approaches have been used to characterize the pathogenesis of the disease. Biochemical characterization of mutant alleles expressed in vitro has shed some insight into the functional deficits of several mutant alleles of myosin heavy chain, troponin-T, and alpha-tropomyosin. Transgenic animal models for FHC have been created to gain further insight into the pathogenesis of this disease. Most of these models have been made in mice; however, recently a transgenic rabbit model has been created. In addition, there are several natural-occurring forms of FHC in animals that will be interesting to explore. The discovery of additional responsible genes and the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis through the use of animal models promise improved and early diagnosis and the potential for developing specific, mutation-, or mechanism-based therapeutics.
    Current Opinion in Cardiology 06/2000; 15(3):189-96. · 2.59 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

474 Citations
118.84 Total Impact Points


  • 2003–2009
    • University of Wuerzburg
      • • Department of Internal Medicine I
      • • Institute for History of Medicine
      Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany
  • 2000–2006
    • University of Colorado at Boulder
      • Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB)
      Boulder, CO, United States