Muscle contraction depends on release of Ca2+ from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) and reuptake by the Ca2+adenosine triphosphatase SERCA. We discovered a putative muscle-specific long noncoding RNA that encodes a peptide of 34 amino acids and that we named dwarf open reading frame (DWORF). DWORF localizes to the SR membrane, where it enhances SERCA activity by displacing the SERCA inhibitors, phospholamban, sarcolipin, and myoregulin. In mice, overexpression of DWORF in cardiomyocytes increases peak Ca2+ transient amplitude and SR Ca2+ load while reducing the time constant of cytosolic Ca2+ decay during each cycle of contraction-relaxation. Conversely, slow skeletal muscle lacking DWORF exhibits delayed Ca2+ clearance and relaxation and reduced SERCA activity. DWORF is the only endogenous peptide known to activate the SERCA pump by physical interaction and provides a means for enhancing muscle contractility.
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