Diaphragm weakness frequently develops in mechanically ventilated critically ill patients and is associated with increased morbidity, including ventilator weaning failure, mortality, and health care costs. The mechanisms underlying diaphragm weakness are incompletely understood but may include the elastic properties of titin, a giant protein whose layout in the muscle’s sarcomeres makes it an ideal candidate to sense ventilation-induced diaphragm unloading, resulting in downstream signaling through titin-binding proteins. In the current study, we investigated whether modulating titin stiffness affects the development of diaphragm weakness during mechanical ventilation. To this end, we ventilated genetically engineered mice with reduced titin stiffness (Rbm20ΔRRM), and robust (TtnΔIAjxn) or severely (TtnΔ112–158) increased titin stiffness for 8 h, and assessed diaphragm contractility and protein expression of titin-binding proteins. Mechanical ventilation reduced the maximum active tension of the diaphragm in WT, TtnΔIAjxn and TtnΔ112–158 mice. However, in Rbm20ΔRRM mice maximum active tension was preserved after ventilation. Analyses of titin binding proteins suggest that muscle ankyrin repeat proteins (MARPs) 1 and 2 may play a role in the adaptation of the diaphragm to mechanical ventilation, and the preservation of diaphragm contractility in Rbm20ΔRRM mice. Thus, Rbm20ΔRRM mice, expressing titin isoforms with lower stiffness, are protected from mechanical ventilation-induced diaphragm weakness, suggesting that titin elasticity may modulate the diaphragm’s response to unloading during mechanical ventilation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, HL-121500 to C.A.C. Ottenheijm.
© 2022 by the authors.