Endogenous cardiotonic steroids and cardiovascular disease, where to next?

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Ever since British Physician William Withering first described the use of foxglove extract for treatment of patients with congestive heart failure in 1785, cardiotonic steroids have been used clinically to treat heart failure and more recently atrial fibrillation. Due to their ability to bind and inhibit the ubiquitous transport enzyme sodium potassium pump, thus regulating intracellular Na+ concentration in every living cell, they are also an essential tool for research into the sodium potassium pump structure and function. Exogenous CTS have been clearly demonstrated to affect cardiovascular system through modulation of vagal tone, cardiac contraction (via ionic changes) and altered natriuresis. Reports of a number of endogenous CTS, since the 1980s, have intensified research into their physiologic and pathophysiologic roles and opened up novel therapeutic targets. Substantive evidence pointing to the role of endogenous ouabain and marinobufagenin, the two most prominent CTS, in development of cardiovascular disease has accumulated. Nevertheless, their presence, structure, biosynthesis pathways and even mechanism of action remain unclear or controversial. In this review the current state-of-the-art, the controversies and the remaining questions surrounding the role of endogenous cardiotonic steroids in health and disease are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102156
Number of pages7
JournalCell Calcium
Early online date27 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Cardiotonic steroids
  • Digoxin
  • Heart failure
  • Marinobufagenin
  • NKA
  • Ouabain
  • Sodium potassium pump

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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