Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), a pleiotropic inflammatory cytokine, is highly expressed in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). CD74 (major histocompatibility complex, class II invariant chain) is the main receptor for MIF. However, the role of the MIF/CD74 axis in atrial arrhythmogenesis is unclear. In this study, we investigated the effects of MIF/CD74 signaling on atrial electrophysiological characteristics and determined its underlying mechanisms. Confocal fluorescence microscopy, patch clamp, and western blot analysis were used to study calcium homeostasis, ionic currents, and calcium-related signaling in MIF-treated HL-1 atrial cardiomyocytes with or without anti-CD74 neutralized antibodies treatment. Furthermore, electrocardiographic telemetry recording and echocardiography were obtained from mice treated with MIF. Compared with controls, MIF-treated HL-1 myocytes had increased calcium transients, sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) calcium content, Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCX) efflux rate, calcium leak, transient outward potassium current, and ultra-rapid delayed rectifier potassium current. Furthermore, MIF could induce expression of SR Ca2+ATPase, NCX, phosphorylation of ryanodine receptor 2 (RyR2), and activation of calcium/calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII) when compared with control cells. MIF-mediated electrical dysregulation and CaMKII-RyR2 signaling activation were attenuated through blocking of CD74. Moreover, MIF-injected mice had lesser left atrium fractional shortening, greater atrial fibrosis, and atrial ectopic beats than control (nonspecific immunoglobulin treated) or MIF combined with anti-CD74 neutralized antibody-treated mice. Consequently, our study on MIF/CD74 signaling has pointed out a new potential therapeutic intervention of AF patients with MIF elevation.
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