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Concept: Cardiac action potential


In normal cardiac myocytes, the action potential duration (APD) is several hundred milliseconds. However, experimental studies showed that under certain conditions, APD could be excessively long (or ultralong), up to several seconds. Unlike the normal APD, the ultralong APD increases sensitively with pacing cycle length even when the pacing rate is very slow, exhibiting a sensitive slow rate-dependence. In addition, these long action potentials may or may not exhibit early afterdepolarizations (EADs). Although these phenomena are well known, the underlying mechanisms and ionic determinants remain incompletely understood. In this study, computer simulations were performed with a simplified action potential model. Modifications to the L-type calcium current (I(Ca,L)) kinetics and the activation time constant of the delayed rectifier K current were used to investigate their effects on APD. We show that: 1) the ultralong APD and its sensitive slow rate-dependence are determined by the steady-state window and pedestal I(Ca,L) currents and the activation speed and the recovery of the delayed rectifier K current; 2) whether an ultralong action potential exhibits EADs or not depends on the kinetics of I(Ca,L); 3) increasing inward currents elevates the plateau voltage, which in general prolongs APD, however, this can also shorten APD when the APD is already ultralong under certain conditions; and 4) APD alternans occurs at slow pacing rates due to the sensitive slow rate-dependence and the ionic determinants are different from the ones causing APD alternans at fast heart rates.

Concepts: Heart, Cardiac muscle, Action potential, Exhibition, Sinoatrial node, Reaction rate, Inward-rectifier potassium ion channel, Cardiac action potential


Eur J Clin Invest 2012 Backgroud  Apelin, a potential agent for treating heart failure, has various ionic effects on ventricular myocytes. However, the effects of apelin on the atrium are not clear. The purpose of this study was to investigate the acute effects of apelin on the electrophysiological characteristics of atrial myocytes. Method  Whole-cell patch-clamp techniques were used to investigate the action potential (AP) and ionic currents in isolated rabbit left atrial (LA) myocytes before and after the administration of apelin. Result  Apelin reduced LA AP duration measured at 90%, 50% and 20% repolarization of the amplitude by 11 ± 3%, 24 ± 5%, 30 ± 7% at 1 nM (n = 11), and by 14 ± 4%, 36 ± 6% and 45 ± 5% at 10 nM (n = 11), but not at 0·1 nM. Apeline (0·1, 1, 10 nM) did not change the amplitude, or resting membrane potential in LA myocytes. Apelin (1 nM) increased sodium currents, ultra-rapid potassium currents and the reverse mode of sodium-calcium exchanger currents, but decreased late sodium currents and L-type calcium currents and did not change transient outward currents or inward rectifier potassium currents in LA myocytes. Conclusions  Apelin significantly changed the atrial electrophysiology with a shortening of AP duration, which may be caused by its effects on multiple ionic currents.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Membrane potential, Resting potential, Inward-rectifier potassium ion channel, Cardiac action potential


Activity of human ether-a-go-go-related gene (hERG) 1 voltage-gated K(+) channels is responsible for portions of phase 2 and phase 3 repolarization of the human ventricular action potential. Here, we questioned whether and how physiologically and pathophysiologically relevant changes in surface N-glycosylation modified hERG channel function. Voltage-dependent hERG channel gating and activity were evaluated as expressed in a set of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines under conditions of full glycosylation, no sialylation, no complex N-glycans, and following enzymatic deglycosylation of surface N-glycans. For each condition of reduced glycosylation, hERG channel steady-state activation and inactivation relationships were shifted linearly by significant depolarizing ∼9 and ∼18 mV, respectively. The hERG window current increased significantly by 50-150%, and the peak shifted by a depolarizing ∼10 mV. There was no significant change in maximum hERG current density. Deglycosylated channels were significantly more active (20-80%) than glycosylated controls during phases 2 and 3 of action potential clamp protocols. Simulations of hERG current and ventricular action potentials corroborated experimental data and predicted reduced sialylation leads to a 50-70-ms decrease in action potential duration. The data describe a novel mechanism by which hERG channel gating is modulated through physiologically and pathophysiologically relevant changes in N-glycosylation; reduced channel sialylation increases hERG channel activity during the action potential, thereby increasing the rate of action potential repolarization.-Norring, S. A., Ednie, A. R., Schwetz, T. A., Du, D., Yang, H., Bennett, E. S. Channel sialic acids limit hERG channel activity during the ventricular action potential.

Concepts: Enzyme, Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Membrane potential, Potassium channel, Resting potential, Cardiac action potential


Human ether-à-go-go related gene (hERG) 1 channels conduct the rapid delayed rectifier K(+) current (IKr) and are essential for the repolarization of the cardiac action potential. hERG1 inhibition by structurally diverse drugs may lead to life threatening arrhythmia. Putative binding determinants of hERG1 channel blockers include T623, S624 and V625 on the pore helix, and residues G648, Y652 and F656, located on segment S6. We and others have previously hypothesized that additional binding determinants may be located on helix S5, which is in close contact with the S6 segments. In order to test this hypothesis, we performed a detailed investigation combining ionic current measurements with two-microelectrode voltage clamp and molecular modeling techniques. We identified a novel aromatic high affinity binding determinant for blockers located in helix S5, F557, which is equally potent as Y652. Modeling supports a direct interaction with the outer pore helix.

Concepts: Action potential, Electrophysiology, Direct current, Potassium channel, HERG, Cardiac pacemaker, Inward-rectifier potassium ion channel, Cardiac action potential


hERG (Kv11.1) channel inhibition is a widely accepted predictor of cardiac arrhythmia. hERG channel inhibition alone is often insufficient to predict pro-arrhythmic drug effects. This study used a library of dofetilide derivatives to investigate the relationship between standard measures of hERG current block in an expression system and changes in action potential duration (APD) in hiPSC-CMs. The interference from accompanying block of Cav1.2 and Nav1.5 channels was investigated along with an in-silico action potential (AP) model.

Concepts: Action potential, Cardiac arrest, Ion channels, Potassium channel, HERG, Cardiac action potential


Human ether-a-go-go-related gene (hERG) potassium channels determine cardiac action potential and contraction duration. Human uterine contractions are underpinned by an action potential that also possesses an initial spike followed by prolonged depolarization. Here we show that hERG channel proteins (α-conducting and β-inhibitory subunits) and hERG currents exist in isolated patch-clamped human myometrial cells. We show that hERG channel activity suppresses contraction amplitude and duration before labour, thereby facilitating quiescence. During established labour, expression of β-inhibitory protein is markedly enhanced, resulting in reduced hERG activity that is associated with an increased duration of uterine action potentials and contractions. Thus, changes in hERG channel activity contribute to electrophysiological mechanisms that produce contractions during labour. We also demonstrate that this system fails in women with elevated BMI, who have enhanced hERG activity as a result of low β-inhibitory protein expression, which likely contributes to the weak contractions and poor labour outcomes observed in many obese women necessitating caesarean delivery.

Concepts: Childbirth, Action potential, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Potassium channel, HERG, Inward-rectifier potassium ion channel, Cardiac action potential


The human ether-à-go-go-related potassium channel (hERG, Kv11.1) is a voltage-dependent channel known for its role in repolarizing the cardiac action potential. hERG alteration by mutation or pharmacological inhibition produces Long QT syndrome and the lethal cardiac arrhythmia torsade de pointes. We have determined the molecular structure of hERG to 3.8 Å using cryo-electron microscopy. In this structure, the voltage sensors adopt a depolarized conformation, and the pore is open. The central cavity has an atypically small central volume surrounded by four deep hydrophobic pockets, which may explain hERG’s unusual sensitivity to many drugs. A subtle structural feature of the hERG selectivity filter might correlate with its fast inactivation rate, which is key to hERG’s role in cardiac action potential repolarization.

Concepts: Action potential, Cardiac electrophysiology, Long QT syndrome, Short QT syndrome, Ventricular tachycardia, Potassium channel, HERG, Cardiac action potential


The therapeutic success of human stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes critically depends on their ability to respond to and integrate with the surrounding electromechanical environment. Currently, the immaturity of human cardiomyocytes derived from stem cells limits their utility for regenerative medicine and biological research. We hypothesize that biomimetic electrical signals regulate the intrinsic beating properties of cardiomyocytes. Here we show that electrical conditioning of human stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes in three-dimensional culture promotes cardiomyocyte maturation, alters their automaticity and enhances connexin expression. Cardiomyocytes adapt their autonomous beating rate to the frequency at which they were stimulated, an effect mediated by the emergence of a rapidly depolarizing cell population, and the expression of hERG. This rate-adaptive behaviour is long lasting and transferable to the surrounding cardiomyocytes. Thus, electrical conditioning may be used to promote cardiomyocyte maturation and establish their automaticity, with implications for cell-based reduction of arrhythmia during heart regeneration.

Concepts: Medicine, Gene, Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Heart, Cardiac muscle, Cardiac action potential


Congenital long QT syndrome (LQTS) is an inherited channelopathy associated with life-threatening arrhythmias. LQTS type 2 (LQT2) is caused by mutations in KCNH2, which encodes the potassium channel hERG. We hypothesized that modifier genes are partly responsible for the variable phenotype severity observed in some LQT2 families. Here, we identified contributors to variable expressivity in an LQT2 family by using induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) and whole exome sequencing in a synergistic manner. We found that iPSC-CMs recapitulated the clinical genotype-phenotype discordance in vitro. Importantly, iPSC-CMs derived from the severely affected LQT2 patients displayed prolonged action potentials compared with cells from mildly affected first-degree relatives. The iPSC-CMs derived from all patients with hERG R752W mutation displayed lower IKr amplitude. Interestingly, iPSC-CMs from severely affected mutation-positive individuals exhibited greater L-type Ca2+ current. Whole exome sequencing identified variants of KCNK17 and the GTP-binding protein REM2, providing biologically plausible explanations for this variable expressivity. Genome editing to correct a REM2 variant reversed the enhanced L-type Ca2+ current and prolonged action potential observed in iPSC-CMs from severely affected individuals. Thus, our findings showcase the power of combining complementary physiological and genomic analyses to identify genetic modifiers and potential therapeutic targets of a monogenic disorder. Furthermore, we propose that this strategy can be deployed to unravel myriad confounding pathologies displaying variable expressivity.

Concepts: Gene, Long QT syndrome, Short QT syndrome, Sodium channel, Potassium channel, Channelopathy, HERG, Cardiac action potential


Optical control of the heart muscle is a promising strategy for cardiology because it is more specific than traditional electrical stimulation, and allows a higher temporal resolution than pharmacological interventions. Anion channelrhodopsins (ACRs) from cryptophyte algae expressed in cultured neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes produced inhibitory currents at less than one-thousandth of the light intensity required by previously available optogenetic tools, such as the proton pump archaerhodopsin-3 (Arch). Because of their greater photocurrents, ACRs permitted complete inhibition of cardiomyocyte electrical activity under conditions in which Arch was inefficient. Most importantly, ACR expression allowed precisely controlled shortening of the action potential duration by switching on the light during its repolarization phase, which was not possible with previously used optogenetic tools. Optical shortening of cardiac action potentials may benefit pathophysiology research and the development of optogenetic treatments for cardiac disorders such as the long QT syndrome.

Concepts: Cardiology, Heart, Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Action potential, Cardiac electrophysiology, Circulatory system, Cardiac action potential