The short QT syndrome (SQTS) is a recently
identified cardiac repolarisation disorder that is associated with shortened
QT intervals on the ECG (typically to ~320 ms or less (1-3)) and poor rate adaptation
of the QT interval. It is also associated with an increased incidence of both
atrial and ventricular arrhythmias and of sudden death, in the absence of cardiac
structural abnormalities (3, 4). The SQTS is genetically heterogeneous and thus
far gain-of-function mutations have been reported to three cardiac potassium
) channel genes: KCNH2
(for SQT1), KCNQ1
(for SQT2) and KCNJ2
(for SQT3) (5-9). The first gene mutations to be identified in SQTS patients
were to KCNH2
(hERG) (5). In two unrelated families showing a SQTS phenotype
missense mutations were identified that resulted in a
common amino-acid substitution (asparagine
at position 588 in the hERG channel protein (5). A subsequent study identified
the same mutation in a third SQTS family (6).
The N588 residue is located in the S5-Pore linker region of the hERG channel
(alternative nomenclature Kv11.1, encoded by KCNH2
(10)). This region
has been shown to be important in the rapid voltage-dependent inactivation gating
that normally results in marked inward rectification of the steady-state current-voltage
(I-V) relation for wild-type (WT) hERG current (IhERG
and, by extension, of the cardiac native rapid delayed rectifier K+
(11-13). Conventional voltage-clamp
measurements of N588K IhERG
indicate that at
both ambient (14) and physiological (15) experimental temperatures the N588K
mutation shifts the process of inactivation to more positive potentials (shifting
the voltage-dependent inactivation relation by +60 to +100 mV (15, 14, 16)),
with the consequence that little rectification of the I-V relation occurs over
physiologically relevant membrane potentials. Use of the action potential clamp
(AP clamp) technique has shown that during ventricular AP waveforms N588K-hERG
channels pass greater current earlier during the AP plateau phase (5, 14, 15).
This would be anticipated to lead to increased IKr
earlier during ventricular APs and thereby to ventricular AP shortening and
interval abbreviation, a notion that
has been substantiated by ventricular AP simulation studies (9, 17, 18).
The profile of IKr
/hERG during AP waveforms from different regions of the heart is known to differ (19). However, despite the fact that SQT1 appears to increase the risk of atrial fibrillation (1, 6, 20), at present there is no information on the effects of the N588K mutation on the profile of IhERG
during atrial AP waveforms. The AP clamp technique permits recording of ionic currents during dynamic, physiological waveforms and can therefore take account of membrane potential ‘history’ (21, 22) in a way that is not possible with conventional voltage clamp. Due to the differing configurations of atrial and ventricular APs, the effects of the N588K mutation on IhERG
cannot be assumed to be identical during the two AP types and the AP clamp offers a potential means of gaining insight into the effects of the N588K mutation on atrial repolarisation. Moreover, although a shortening of the effective refractory period resulting from accelerated repolarisation is likely to increase the likelihood of re-entrant arrhythmias (3, 4, 23), the overall mechanism(s) by which the N588K mutation increases arrhythmogenic risk are at present incompletely understood. In the case of SQT1, the results of ventricular AP clamp experiments performed at ambient temperature on heterologously expressed WT and N588K-hERG channels have suggested that increased heterogeneity of repolarisation between the APs from the ventricular myocardium and those from Purkinje fibres (14) may contribute to the substrate for ventricular arrhythmogenesis. This possibility arises from observations made at ambient temperature that, under AP clamp, in the case of the Purkinje fibre AP clamp, the current profiles for WT and N588K-hERG were almost identical (14) – most likely because the relatively low plateau phase of the Purkinje AP results in comparatively little inactivation of WT-hERG during the early phases of the AP. Feasibly, a differential effect of the N588K mutation during ventricular and Purkinje fibre APs could account for pronounced U waves observed on the ECG of some SQT patients (5, 14, 24). However, due to complex effects of temperature on IhERG
kinetics, data obtained at ambient (room) temperature cannot readily be extrapolated to the situation at 37°C (25), so the relevance of this observation to the situation at mammalian body temperature remains to be verified.
Another possible way that the N588K-hERG mutation might affect susceptibility
to arrhythmogenesis is by modifying the ability of WT-hERG/IKr
to provide cardiac tissue with protection from premature beats: premature stimuli
applied in AP clamp experiments have been shown to activate outward transient
currents and these could protect native
cardiac tissue against premature depolarisations (19). At present it is not
known if the N588K mutation influences the response of IKr
to premature stimuli. Accordingly, the aims of this study were: (i) to characterise
and compare at 37 °C the effects of the N588K mutation on IhERG
during different cardiac APs (atrial, ventricular, Purkinje fibre), complementing
these with in silico
AP clamp simulations, based on experimental data
and the known properties of WT and N588K IhERG
(14-16) and (ii) to determine the effects of the N588K mutation on the pattern
observed during premature stimuli following
Maintenance of cell lines stably expressing wild-type hERG and N588K-hERG channels
Measurements of wild-type (WT) hERG and N588K-hERG current (IhERG
) were made from Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells stably expressing either WT or N588K-hERG. The N588K mutation was engineered into the full length hERG transcript (which had been subcloned into a modified pcDNA3.0 vector at the HindIII and EcoRI restriction enzyme sites) using the Quikchange II XL site-directed mutagenesis kit (Stratagene) as previously described (15). The cells were passaged using enzyme-free cell dissociation solution (Chemicon International) and were plated onto small glass coverslips in 30 mm Petri dishes containing Kaighn’s modification of Ham’s F12-K medium (Gibco), supplemented with 10% Fetal bovine serum (Gibco) and 200 µg ml-1 gentamycin (Gibco). Cells were incubated at 37 °C for a minimum of 24 hours prior to any electrophysiological study.
Co-expression of MiRP1 with hERG
MinK Related Peptide 1 (MiRP1, encoded by the gene KCNE2) is a putative accessory
sub-unit that has been suggested to associate with hERG to recapitulate channels
that mediate native IKr
(26, 27). A contribution
of MiRP1 to native IKr
is debatable however
(28, 29), and it has been suggested that MiRP1 is unlikely to associate significantly
with hERG in areas of the heart outside of the conduction system (30, 31). Nevertheless,
for the sake of completeness, some AP clamp experiments with hERG and MiPR1
co-expression were performed in the present study. For these, a similar approach
was taken to that used in (28, 32, 33), using the same transfection protocol
we have described previously (15). Briefly, cells stably expressing WT or N588K-hERG
were plated onto glass coverslips. 24 hours later the cells were incubated with
2 µg of MiRP1 (in pCI-neo, kindly donated by Dr S. Goldstein) and 0.5 µg green
fluorescent protein (in pCMX; kindly donated by Dr Jeremy Tavare) using FuGene
6 transfection reagent (Roche diagnostics) and Optimem-1 medium (Gibco). After
an incubation period of 5-6 hours the Optimem-1 medium was replaced with fresh
F-12K medium. The cells were incubated at 37 °C for a minimum of 16 hours before
any electrophysiological studies were performed (15). Co-expression of MiRP1
with hERG results in a left-ward shift in the voltage dependence of activation
(28, 32) and this was used a marker of functional MiRP1 expression in cells
demonstrating expression of GFP. Use of a series of conventional depolarising
voltage commands from a holding membrane potential of -80 mV to a range of more
positive membrane potentials (see (15)), allowed half-maximal activation voltage
) values to be assessed. For both WT and
N588K-hERG expressing cell lines, MiRP1-transfected cells showed V0.5
values that were ~ -10 mV shifted compared to hERG alone, concordant with previous
reports (28, 32).
Glass coverslips onto which cells had been plated were placed in a 0.5 ml bath
mounted on an inverted microscope (Nikon Diaphot) and continuously superfused
(at 37°C) with Tyrode’s solution containing (in mM): 140 NaCl, 4 KCl, 2.5 CaCl2
, 10 Glucose and 5 HEPES (titrated to
pH 7.45 with NaOH) (15, 34, 35). Patch pipettes (Corning 7052 glass, AM Systems)
were pulled (Narishige PP830) and fire polished (Narishige MF83) to give final
resistances of 1.5-3.5 M
The pipette dialysis solution contained (in mM): 130 KCl, 1 MgCl2, 5 EGTA, 5
MgATP and 10 HEPES (titrated to pH 7.2 with KOH) (15, 34, 35). Whole-cell patch
clamp recordings were made using an Axopatch 1D amplifier (Axon instruments)
and a CV-4 1/100 headstage. Typically, 80% of the pipette series resistance
could be compensated. Data were recorded using a Digidata 1200B interface (Axon
instruments) and stored on a Viglen computer. The data were sampled at 10 kHz,
using a filter bandwidth of 2 kHz on the amplifier.
Action potential clamp waveforms
Ventricular and atrial action potentials (AP’s) used as voltage-clamp commands
were generated using the ten Tusscher et al
. human ventricular cell model
and Nygren et al
. human atrial cell model (36, 37). The ventricular AP
waveform used was a human epicardial AP with a duration at 50 and 90% of repolarisation
of 270 and 319 ms, respectively. The atrial AP waveform had an APD50
of 42 and 266 ms. In the absence of
a viable human Purkinje fibre model, the Purkinje fibre AP waveform used was
the same canine Purkinje cell AP used previously by Cordeiro and colleagues
(14) with APD50
values of 170 and 360 ms respectively. N588K-hERG exhibits a modest alteration
to Na:K permeability and a positive shifted IhERG
reversal potential (14, 15). Conductance-voltage (G-V) relations for N588K-hERG
negative to ~ -70 mV exhibited high levels of noise and therefore G-V plots
for N588K-hERG shown in Figs. 1-3
were cut-off negative to ~-70 mV (15).
For experiments involving paired ‘premature’ stimulation (19), a ventricular
AP command protocol was applied in which a premature AP command waveform was
superimposed 100 ms before the APD90
of an initial
AP command. For subsequent applications of the protocol the premature AP command
waveform was applied in 10 ms increments, until it was applied 190 ms after
of the initial AP command. A similar
approach was adopted for experiments in which ‘premature’ stimuli were applied
following an initial atrial or Purkinje fibre AP command waveform.
For some ventricular AP clamp experiments an abbreviated ventricular AP command
was used, in order to approximate accelerated ventricular repolarisation in
the SQTS. Rate corrected QT (QTc
as short as 248 ms have been reported (38, 39), compared to normal QTc
intervals of ~450 ms or less (40), representing QTc
of up to ~45%. Accordingly, the ventricular AP command was abbreviated (manually,
using Microsoft Excel), to give APD50
values of 138 ms and 171 ms respectively, representing a ~46% shortening of
. In contrast to the situation regarding
ventricular repolarisation, no clinical or animal model data are currently available
regarding the occurrence or extent of atrial or Purkinje fibre AP shortening
in SQT1. Therefore abbreviated AP commands were not incorporated into paired
AP stimulation experiments using these AP commands. Protocols were converted
for use in Clampex 8. Start-to-start intervals of 3 seconds between successive
applications of protocols were used, in order to facilitate deactivation between
successive commands. All current traces were corrected for leak-current online,
using an interspersed P/4 protocol (15, 21).
As the AP clamp approach takes into account of membrane potential ‘history’
(21, 22) in a way that is not possible with conventional voltage clamp, AP clamp
computer simulations were also performed to gain additional insight into the
relative impact of the N588K mutation on IhERG
during the different AP waveforms. For these, ventricular, atrial, and Purkinje
fibre waveforms were used as voltage commands in silico
AP clamp simulations
that were based on our data and the known properties of WT and N588K IhERG
was best described by a formulation used previously by Noble and colleagues (22) to incorporate mono-exponential activation and bi-exponential deactivation. The model equations for wild type IhERG
are the conductance values of the components that combine to produce net IhERG
with their states being described by xr1
respectively (22, 41); r is a rectification
factor that reproduces voltage-dependent rectification of IhERG
that arises due to current inactivation; V
is the membrane potential
is the potassium equilibrium potential.
Details of parameter values are listed in (22).
As the original Noble et al
. (22) equations were developed for guinea-pig
ventricular myocytes, in the present study, some of the parameters of the equations
were adjusted to recapitulate human ventricular IKr/IhERG
as presented by ten Tusscher et al
. (36). The resultant gKr1
are 0.018 and 0.011 nS/pF respectively
and the equation for xr2
We have previously shown that, at 37°C, the N588K mutation produces a profound
positive shift in voltage-dependent inactivation kinetics of hERG (15, 16),
without a concomitant alteration to voltage-dependent activation (15). We have
also shown that, over the range of physiologically relevant voltages, electrophysiological
changes in SQT1 are reasonably well recapitulated by removing voltage-dependent
inactivation from IKr/IhERG
(17). Consequently, in this study changes in IhERG
due to the N588K mutation (the ‘SQT1’ condition) were simulated by setting ‘r
to 1, without any accompanying alteration to the voltage-dependence of IhERG
AP clamp simulations were performed with the same AP commands to those used
for in vitro
experiments, without changes to gKr1
(therefore using a constant
baseline current density). As a consequence of this, any observed differences
in amplitude and time-course between WT IhERG
(control) elicited by ventricular, atrial, and Purkinje fibre AP commands would
be attributable solely to differences between the voltage command waveforms.
Similarly, any observed differences in elicited currents between WT and SQT1
simulations with a given command profile would be attributable solely to the
loss of IhERG
incorporated into the SQT1 current formulation.
Data analysis and presentation
Data were analysed using Clampfit 8 (Axon Instruments), Excel 2002 and Prism v3 (Graphpad Inc) software. The data are presented as the mean ± standard error of the mean. Statistical analysis was carried out using a Student’s t-test or a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with Bonferroni post-test using Prism v3 (Graphpad Inc). P values of less than 0.05 were taken as being statistically significant.
IhERG during human ventricular AP clamp
For comparison with current profiles during AP voltage commands, Figures
show representative WT and N588K-hERG current (IhERG
records elicited by a conventional voltage-clamp protocol (comprised of a 2s
square command from -80 mV to +20 mV, followed by a repolarising step to -40
mV to observe IhERG
tails; cf (16, 35)). The
current shown in Fig. 1Ai displays characteristic properties of WT IhERG
– with a large, progressively deactivating current tail following repolarisation
to -40 mV at the end of the +20 mV step (16, 35). Fig.1Aii shows that, for N588K
the current during the +20 mV step was
much larger than the subsequent tail current on repolarisation to -40 mV. This
is consistent with the known attenuated-inactivation properties of N588K-hERG
and is similar to previously published profiles of N588K IhERG
during conventional voltage-clamp protocols at 37°C (15, 16, 35). Figs. 1B
show representative data from ventricular AP clamp experiments.
show representative WT and N588K-hERG current
) records superimposed on the applied
ventricular AP command waveform. WT IhERG
a small increase in current during the upstroke of the AP, which peaked during
the repolarisation phase. In contrast, there was a marked rise in outward current
for N588K IhERG
following depolarisation, due
to previously reported attenuated inactivation (5, 15, 14), resulting in a dome
shaped current (Fig. 1Bii
). These findings are consistent with current
profiles at 37°C observed previously using a guinea-pig ventricular AP command
(15). Plots of the instantaneous I-V relationship for WT and N588K-hERG during
the repolarisation are shown in Figs. 1Ci
each of 7 experiments were normalised to peak current and are shown overlaid).
WT and N588K IhERG
during repolarisation peaked
at -37.6 ± 1.7 and +24.6 ± 0.6 mV respectively, representing a +62 mV shift
in peak repolarising current (n = 7 cells for each; P < 0.001, unpaired t test).
To take into account the changes in driving force during the AP, the instantaneous
conductance-voltage (G-V) relationships were plotted as shown in Figs. 1Di
(15, 19, 21). For WT-hERG, conductance increased as the membrane
potential followed the course of repolarisation (Fig. 1Di
G-V profile for N588K-hERG was consistent with that observed previously during
a guinea pig AP command (15), with conductance rising quickly, reaching a maximum
between +20 and +40 mV, and remaining relatively constant during the remainder
of the repolarisation (Fig. 1Dii
, (15)). Whilst the role in native IKr
of the putative accessory subunit (MiRP1) is a matter of debate (26, 28), and
MiRP1 may be unlikely to play a significant role in channels mediating IKr
outside of the conduction system (31), for the sake of completeness experiments
similar to those shown in Fig. 1
were also performed using hERG + MiRP1
co-expression. The IhERG
profiles during the
ventricular AP waveform for WT and N588K-hERG in the presence of MiRP1 were
similar to those seen for hERG alone (not shown), with peak repolarising current
occurring at -42.8 ± 1.2 mV and +24.3 ± 0.6 mV respectively for WT and N588K
(a +67 mV shift in peak repolarising current;
P < 0.001; n = 9 and 8 cells for WT and N588K-hERG respectively).
IhERG profile during atrial and Purkinje fibre AP commands
1. Profile of IhERG during rectangular
and ventricular AP voltage commands
A. Upper traces show example current profiles of WT (Ai) and N588K IhERG
(Aii) elicited by conventional rectangular voltage command protocol shown
in lower traces. The voltage-step to +20 mV to activate IhERG
was preceded by a brief (50 ms) step from -80 mV to -40 mV to monitor
instantaneous leak/endogenous current, which was minimal in both Ai and
B. Upper traces show example current profiles of WT (Bi) and N588K IhERG
(Bii) elicited by the ventricular AP voltage command waveform (shown overlaid).
C. Instantaneous I-V relationships overlaid for 7 cells each for WT (Ci) and N588K-hERG (Cii).
D. Representative instantaneous G-V plots for WT (Di) and N588K-hERG (Dii).
Arrows in C and D denote direction of membrane potential repolarisation during the AP command.
Some patients with SQT1 have been shown to have atrial fibrillation associated
with shortened effective refractory periods (3), which is highly suggestive
of abbreviated atrial repolarisation. Yet, to date there has been no investigation
as to the effects of the N588K mutation on the profile of IhERG
during atrial APs. To address this issue, we applied atrial AP command waveforms
to cells expressing WT or N588K-hERG and recorded the resultant profile of IhERG
shown in Figs. 2Ai
. WT IhERG
showed a dome shaped profile (Fig. 2Ai
) as reported previously (19).
The current profile for N588K-hERG also displayed a dome shaped profile during
the atrial AP, with the current peaking slightly earlier than WT IhERG
decreasing earlier (Fig. 2Aii
Plots of the normalised instantaneous I-V relationship during atrial repolarisation
for WT and N588K-hERG are shown in Figs. 2Bi
5 and 7 experiments normalised to peak current are shown overlain for WT and
N588K-hERG respectively). The maximum IhERG
during repolarisation was shifted by ~+15 mV: with maximal WT IhERG
occurring at -42.0 ± 1.3 mV (n = 5 cells), and that for N588K-hERG occurring
at -26.8 ± 0.7 mV (n = 7 cells; P < 0.001). Example traces of the instantaneous
G-V relationship for WT and N588K-hERG during atrial repolarisation are shown
in Figs. 2Ci
. WT-hERG conductance increased as the cell
membrane followed the course of repolarisation, reaching a maximum ~-60 mV (Fig.
). The conductance of N588K-hERG increased earlier than WT-hERG, reaching
a maximum between -20 and -40 mV, then levelled out during the remainder of
repolarisation (Fig. 2Cii
for WT and N588K-hERG in the presence of MiRP1 co-expression (not shown) were
similar to those for hERG alone, with maximal repolarising current for WT-hERG
+ MiRP1 occurring at -44.7 ± 1.3 mV and for N588K-hERG + MiRP1 occurring at
-28.5 ± 0.8 mV (n = 5 for each; representing a +16 mV shift in maximal repolarising
current; P < 0.001).
2. Profile of IhERG during an atrial
A. Example current profiles of WT (Ai) and N588K IhERG
(Aii) overlaid on atrial AP voltage command waveform.
B. Instantaneous I-V relationships overlaid for 5 and 7 cells each for WT (Bi) and N588K-hERG (Bii).
C. Representative instantaneous G-V plots for WT (Ci) and N588K-hERG (Cii).
Arrows in B and C denote direction of membrane potential repolarisation during the AP command.
shows representative current traces of WT (Fig. 3Ai
N588K-hERG (Fig. 3Aii
) recorded during a PF AP command waveform. WT IhERG
increased progressively, reaching a maximum during phase 3 of the AP. In contrast,
increased earlier following the
AP upstroke and reached a maximum during phase 2 of the AP, with the subsequent
decline in current occurring earlier than for WT-hERG. Figs. 3Bi
show plots of the instantaneous I-V relationship for WT and N588K-hERG
respectively (traces of 8 and 10 experiments normalised to the peak current
are shown overlain for WT and N588K respectively). WT IhERG
reached a maximum at -45.6 ± 1.6 mV (n = 8 cells), while N588K IhERG
reached a maximum much earlier at -14.8 ± 0.3 mV (n = 10 cells), representing
a ~+30 mV shift in peak repolarising current (P < 0.001). Example traces of
the instantaneous G-V relationships are shown in Figs. 3Ci
for WT and N588K-hERG respectively. WT-hERG conductance increased as the membrane
potential followed the course of repolarisation, reaching a maximum during the
end stages of repolarisation (Fig. 3Ci
). In the case of N588K-hERG, the
conductance increased rapidly just after the peak of the AP, reaching a maximum
between -20 and 0 mV, then remained relatively constant as the membrane potential
followed the course of repolarisation (Fig. 3Cii
). In additional experiments
with MiRP1 co-expression, WT-hERG + MiRP1 IhERG
peaked at -43.2 ± 0.8 mV (n = 8 cells) and for N588K-hERG + MiRP1 IhERG
peaked at -13.0 ± 0.3 mV (n = 8 cells; again a ~+30 mV shift in peak repolarising
current; P < 0.001).
Relative effects of the N588K mutation on peak repolarising current during different AP types
3. Profile of IhERG during a Purkinje
A. Example current profiles of WT (Ai) and N588K-hERG (Aii) overlaid on
Purkinje fibre AP voltage command waveform.
B. Instantaneous I-V relationships overlaid for 8 and 10 cells each for WT (Bi) and N588K-hERG (Bii).
C. Representative instantaneous G-V plots for WT (Ci) and N588K-hERG (Cii).
Arrows in B and C denote direction of membrane potential repolarisation during the AP command.
show that the N588K mutation affected the overall profile of
during each of the AP command waveforms
used, though to differing extents. This was examined further by comparing peak
repolarising current density for the differing AP waveforms, for both WT and
N588K-hERG. Comparisons were made between AP waveforms for each of WT and N588K
rather than between the two channel types, since it could not be ruled out that
differences in current magnitude between WT and mutant channels could reflect
(wholly or in part) different functional expression levels of the WT and mutant
channel cell lines. Comparisons of current during the different APs were made
in both the absence and presence of MiRP1.
shows that maximal WT IhERG
during the ventricular AP command was significantly greater (by 2.9-fold and
1.7-fold respectively) than during atrial and Purkinje AP command waveforms.
shows corresponding data for N588K-hERG, with differences between
density during the ventricular AP
and that during atrial and Purkinje fibre APs being augmented (to 6.6-fold and
2.6 fold respectively). Figs. 4C
show similar data for
WT and N588K-hERG in the presence of MiRP1. Differences in peak IhERG
density between the different APs showed similar trends to those seen in the
absence of MiRP1 for both WT and N588K-hERG, although the 1.2-fold difference
in WT peak IhERG
density between ventricular
and Purkinje fibre APs did not attain significance, compared to the 3.1-fold
difference between current during ventricular and atrial APs. For N588K IhERG
relative differences in peak current density (ventricular versus atrial of 6.7
fold and ventricular versus Purkinje of 2.6 fold) were similar to those observed
in the absence of MiRP1. The most noteworthy observation here relates to the
comparison between ventricular and Purkinje fibre APs – since both of these
cell types contribute to overall repolarisation of the ventricles – the results
of which indicate that ratios in peak repolarising IhERG
of ventricular versus Purkinje fibre APs were augmented for N588K hERG.
4. Current density plots during AP commands
A. Maximal WT IhERG density during ventricular,
atrial and Purkinje fibre AP command waveforms (n = 7, 5 and 8 cells respectively).
B. Maximal N588K IhERG density during
ventricular, atrial and Purkinje fibre AP command waveforms ( n = 7, 7
and 10 cells respectively).
C. Maximal WT + MiRP1 IhERG density during
ventricular, atrial and Purkinje fibre AP command waveforms (n = 9, 5
and 8 cells respectively).
D. Maximal N588K + MiRP1 IhERG during
ventricular, atrial and Purkinje fibre AP command waveforms (n = 8, 5
and 8 cells respectively).
In ‘A’-‘D’ * denotes statistical significance of P < 0.05; # denotes statistical significance of P < 0.01; § denotes statistical significance of P < 0.001.
To enable comparison between currents elicited by the different AP waveforms
for WT and mutant conditions, we performed in silico
AP clamp simulations,
using the same AP voltage commands as used to obtain the in vitro
data described in Figs. 1-4
. The results of our AP clamp simulations
are shown in Fig. 5
. Figs. 5Ai
show the simulated profiles of WT (‘Control’) IhERG
during ventricular, atrial and Purkinje fibre AP commands, whilst Figs. 5Aii
show comparable currents under simulated SQT1 conditions.
For each AP waveform, the simulated current profiles were similar to those observed
experimentally. Additionally, one advantage of the simulations is that the consistent
use of similar baseline conductance values made it possible to compare directly
the resulting current amplitudes between SQT1 and WT IhERG
for each AP profile. Thus, Figs. 5Ai
show both an alteration
to the overall profile of IhERG
during the ventricular
AP command in SQT1 (similar to that shown in Fig. 1
) and also a marked
increase in peak current amplitude (the SQT1 peak current was 4.87-fold that
in control). As predicted from the in vitro current measurements, simulated
during the atrial AP command (Fig.
) was markedly smaller than that during the ventricular AP command. Nevertheless,
for the atrial AP command the peak SQT1 IhERG
amplitude was increased - to 2.17-fold the WT IhERG
amplitude. For the Purkinje fibre AP, peak WT IhERG
during the AP command (Fig. 5Ci
) was somewhat reduced compared to that
during the ventricular AP, whilst in simulated SQT1 conditions, peak current
was 2.87-fold that in the control condition. Collectively, the results of our
AP clamp simulations are consistent with the trend indicated by the in vitro
AP clamp experiments: under SQT1 conditions repolarising IhERG
was increased during each AP type studied, with the greatest effect seen for
the ventricular AP waveform.
Effect of premature pulses following the ventricular action potentials on WT and N588K-IhERG
5. AP clamp experiment simulations.
A. Shows simulated wild-type (‘Control’, Ai) and SQT1 mutation condition
currents (‘SQT1’, Aii) elicited by the overlaid ventricular AP command
B. Shows simulated wild-type (‘Control’, Bi) and SQT1 (‘SQT1’, Bii) currents elicited by the overlaid atrial AP command waveform.
C. Shows simulated wild-type (‘Control’, Ci) and SQT1 (‘SQT1’, Cii) currents elicited by the overlaid Purkinje fibre AP command waveform.
It has been suggested previously (19) that the hERG/IKr
channel may play a protective role in countering the effects of premature membrane
depolarisation. This is because, due to comparatively rapid recovery from inactivation
and slow deactivation, a proportion of hERG channels are able to pass rapid,
transient outward currents in response to premature stimuli, even following
complete AP repolarisation (19). At present, the effects of the N588K mutation
on the response of hERG to premature stimuli are not known. We investigated
this by using paired ventricular AP commands under AP clamp (see Methods), as
performed previously for WT-hERG by Lu et al
(19). Figs. 6Ai
show representative traces of WT and N588K IhERG
during paired AP clamp commands (for clarity only 11 of the 30 paired waveforms
are shown), with the voltage protocol shown as an inset. Considering WT-hERG,
it can be seen that at the upstroke of the premature AP command a rapid outward
current transient occurred; this was followed by a sustained current which was
similar in profile to the current seen during the first AP command (Fig.
, see also (19)). The outward current transients for WT-hERG (which were
normalised to the maximal outward current transient recorded (19, 32)) increased
in amplitude the later the premature AP command waveform occurred, reaching
a maximum 30 ms after the APD90
, before decreasing
at longer time periods (Fig. 6Bi
; n = 7 cells), presumably due to progressive
effects of IhERG
deactivation, and showing a
profile similar to that reported previously (19). Fig. 6Aii
current traces for N588K-hERG during the same protocol, with mean normalised
data (n = 7 cells) plotted in Fig. 6Bi
, for direct comparison with the
corresponding data for WT-hERG. The profile of N588K-hERG outward current transients
differed from that of WT-hERG, with normalised outward current transient amplitude
being maximal early during the protocol (up to 10 ms after the APD90
labelled ‘t1’), but decreasing in amplitude more extensively than WT-hERG between
30-70 ms after the APD90
‘t2’). Fig. 6Bii
shows similar data for WT-hERG (n = 7 cells) and N588K-hERG
(n = 6 cells) during the abbreviated ventricular AP command waveform (see Methods).
The time-course of peak outward current transients for WT-hERG was similar to
that for the longer AP command waveform, with the peak current occurring 10
ms after the APD90
outward current transients increased slightly prior to the APD90
reaching a maximum 20 ms before the APD90
, labelled ‘t3’). As in the case for the longer AP command waveform
), there was a time-period (from 20-120 ms after APD90
of the first AP command, labelled ‘t4’) during which N588K-hERG normalised outward
current transient amplitudes were smaller than those of WT-hERG (Fig. 6Bii
6. Profile of WT and N588K IhERG
during premature ventricular AP commands
A. Representative current traces of WT (Aii) and N588K-hERG (Aii) during paired ventricular AP command waveforms elicited by the protocol shown in the figure inset.
B. Plots of WT and N588K-hERG normalised outward current transients during paired ventricular AP command waveforms (Bi; n = 7 cells each) and shortened AP command waveforms (Bii; n = 7 and 6 for WT and N588K-hERG respectively).
C. Comparison of normalised outward current transients of WT-hERG during
a longer duration paired ventricular AP command waveform (n = 7 cells),
against outward current transients for N588K-hERG during a shortened paired
ventricular AP command waveform (n = 6 cells), plotted against interpulse
interval (Ci). Comparison of WT-hERG normalised outward current transients
during longer and shorter duration paired ventricular AP command waveforms
(Cii; n = 7 cells).
In ‘B’ and ‘C’ ‘*’ denotes statistical significance of P < 0.05; # denotes statistical significance of P < 0.01; § denotes statistical significance of P < 0.001.
In order to approximate a comparison between a ‘normal’ response of hERG to
premature stimulation and the response of N588K-hERG in the setting of SQT1
(one that would be associated with abbreviated APs) we compared the profile
of outward current transients for WT-hERG shown in Fig. 6Bi
for N588K-hERG for the abbreviated AP command shown in Fig. 6Bii
this the respective normalised plots against time of outward current transient
amplitude were overlaid Fig. 6Ci
). It can be seen that in the period
starting from 100 ms before the APD90
ms after the APD90
(labelled ‘t5’), N588K-hERG
exhibited greater outward current transients than did WT-hERG (which might be
anticipated to result in an increased protective role of N588K-hERG in suppressing
effect of premature depolarising stimuli during this time period; P < 0.001,
two-way ANOVA). However in the period from 20-120 ms after the APD90
(labelled ‘t6’), the normalised N588K-hERG outward current transients were much
smaller in amplitude than those of WT-hERG (Fig. 6Ci
; P < 0.05 two-way
ANOVA). For purposes of comparison Fig. 6Cii
shows normalised plots of
WT-hERG outward current transients during the ‘normal’ and abbreviated (‘short’)
AP command waveforms. As might be anticipated, the relationships for the two
AP waveforms were similar in profile, with the maximal outward current transient
occurring earlier (labelled ‘t7’) and the decline in current transient amplitude
commencing earlier for the shorter AP command. Consequently, there was a period
(labelled ‘t8’), over which normalised outward current transients for WT-hERG
were significantly smaller in amplitude following the abbreviated AP compared
to the ‘normal’ AP command. Collectively, these observations raise the possibility
that at some time-points after the APD90
ventricular AP repolarisation may be associated with altered ability of hERG
to counter potentially arrhythmogenic premature membrane depolarisation.
Premature stimulation experiments were also performed using paired atrial (Fig.
) and Purkinje fibre (Fig. 7B
) AP commands. Example current traces
for WT and N588K-hERG during paired atrial AP command waveforms are shown in
respectively. It can be seen that for WT-hERG,
the outward current transients initially increased with increasing delay between
the first and premature AP command waveforms, before decreasing at longer intervals
(presumably due to deactivation of IhERG
For N588K-hERG, the outward current transients were maximal for the first paired
AP command waveforms and started to decrease in amplitude the later the premature
AP command waveform was applied. The outward current transients for WT and N588K-hERG
were normalised to the maximal outward current transient observed in each cell,
pooled and then plotted against the time at which the premature AP command waveform
was applied (Fig. 7Aiii
). It can be seen that at almost all of the time
periods investigated, the normalised outward current transients for N588K-hERG
(n = 7 cells) were smaller in amplitude than for WT-hERG (n = 6 cells). For
paired Purkinje fibre AP commands, it can be seen that for WT-hERG, as the delay
between the first and premature AP command waveforms increased, the outward
current transients increased in amplitude before subsequently decreasing (presumably
due to IhERG
deactivation see (19)). For N588K-hERG,
the outward current transients only increased in amplitude very slightly before
subsequently decreasing in amplitude as the delay between the first and premature
AP command waveform increased. Plots of the normalised outward current transients
against the time at which the premature AP command waveform was applied are
shown in Fig. 7Biii
. Prior to APD90
‘a’ in Fig. 7Biii
), normalised outward current transients for N588K-
hERG (n = 6 cells) were larger in amplitude compared to WT-hERG (n = 7 cells;
P < 0.05, two-way ANOVA). However, when the premature AP command waveform was
applied after the APD90
(labelled ‘b’ in Fig.
), the normalised outward current transients for N588K-hERG were smaller
in amplitude than for WT-hERG between 10 ms after the APD90
to 120 ms after the APD90
P < 0.05, two-way ANOVA). Collectively, the results shown in Figure 7
raise the possibility that the N588K mutation may also be associated with an
altered ability of hERG to counter potentially arrhythmogenic premature membrane
depolarisations following atrial or Purkinje fibre waveforms.
7. Profile of WT and N588K IhERG
during premature atrial and Purkinje fibre AP commands
A. Representative current traces of WT (Ai) and N588K-hERG (Aii) during paired atrial AP command waveforms elicited by the protocol shown in the figure inset. (Aiii) shows plots of normalised outward current transients during paired atrial AP commands waveforms (n=6 WT; n=7 N588K). * denotes statistical significance of P < 0.05; # denotes statistical significance of P < 0.01.
B. Representative current traces of WT (Bi) and N588K-hERG (Bii) during
paired Purkinje fibre AP command waveforms elicited by the protocol shown
in the figure inset. (Biii) shows plots of normalised outward current
transients during paired atrial AP commands waveforms (n = 7 and 6 cells
for WT and N588K-hERG respectively). * denotes statistical significance
of P < 0.05; # denotes statistical significance of P < 0.01; § denotes
statistical significance of P < 0.001. Points ‘A’ and ‘B’ represent time
periods during which normalised outward current transients for N588K-hERG
were significantly larger ‘a’ and smaller ‘b’ than for WT-hERG.
For comparison with the results presented in Figs. 6
also compared the time-course of outward IhERG
transients using conventional ‘square pulse’ commands (protocol shown as an
inset to Fig. 8A
). The membrane potential was depolarised to +40 mV (a
potential within the ventricular AP overshoot/plateau range) for 500 ms. It
was then repolarised to -40 mV for increasing periods of time (between 2 and
20 ms). This repolarisation potential was chosen as WT IhERG
is maximal at ~-40 mV during the different AP commands (whereas the N588K mutation
altered the timing of peak repolarising current during different AP commands
to different extents). Membrane potential was then again depolarised to +40
mV for 100 ms. Representative current traces during this protocol for WT IhERG
and N588K IhERG
are shown in Fig. 8Ai
respectively (dotted line indicates zero current; indicating
that, as anticipated from the known voltage-dependent inactivation kinetics
for N588K IhERG
(15, 14), greater inactivation
occurred during the initial +40 mV
step for WT-hERG). For each of WT and N588K-hERG (5 and 7 cells respectively),
the time-course of recovery of outward transient amplitude was determined by
normalising peak outward current amplitude during the third step to that for
the maximal outward current transient amplitude observed. The resulting data
were plotted against repolarising step duration and fitted with a one phase
exponential association as shown in Fig. 8B
. The relation for N588K IhERG
rose more rapidly than that for WT IhERG
respective time-constant (react
values of 1.8 (95% CI of 1.6-2.1 ms) and 0.8 ms (95% CI of 0.65-0.91 ms) respectively
(P < 0.001, unpaired t-test).
Novelty and principal findings of this study
8. WT and N588K IhERG transients
during a square pulse protocol
A. Example current profiles of WT (Ai) and N588K IhERG
(Aii) elicited by the voltage protocol shown in the figure inset.
B. Plots of recovery of WT and N588K IhERG
transient amplitude against time. For each cell studied, the peak currents
during the third pulse were normalised to the maximum currents observed
during the third step. Data were fitted with a one phase exponential association
values of 1.8 and 0.8 ms for WT and N588K IhERG
respectively (n = 5 and 7 cells respectively). *** denotes statistical
significance of P < 0.001.
Effects of the N588K-hERG mutation on IhERG
kinetics during conventional rectangular voltage commands have been studied previously at both ambient and physiological temperatures (5, 14, 15). However, although some data on the effect of this gain-of-function mutation on current during ventricular (5, 15, 14), and Purkinje (14) AP waveforms have been obtained previously: (i) ours is the first study of N588K hERG to utilise human AP command waveforms and does so at a physiological recording temperature (contrasting with (5, 14)); (ii) it is the first to report the effect of the N588K mutation on the profile of IhERG
during atrial APs; (iii) it is the first to compare between ventricular and Purkinje fibre AP commands the effects of the SQT1 mutation on IhERG
at physiological temperature; (iv) it is also the first to use a mathematical simulation approach to make parallel comparisons of IhERG
elicited by the three waveforms in the setting of SQTS. The principal findings of this study are that at 37°C: (i) in addition to its effects on IhERG
profile during ventricular AP commands, the N588K mutation also alters the IhERG
profile during atrial and Purkinje AP waveforms, though does so to differing extents for the differing AP configurations; and (ii) the profile of outward IhERG
transients elicited by premature depolarising stimuli is altered for N588K-hERG. Several aspects of our findings merit discussion.
Effects of N588K on the profile of IhERG during ventricular APs
Although extensive IhERG
activation can occur at ventricular AP plateau voltages (21), rapid voltage-dependent inactivation of WT IhERG
normally limits current size early following the initial ventricular AP overshoot (21, 41). Rapid recovery from inactivation as the AP voltage subsequently declines means that the voltage-dependence of WT IhERG
during ventricular AP repolarisation is similar to that of the fully-activated current-voltage (I-V) relation, as the membrane potential scans the ‘open channel’ I-V relation (21, 42). Thus as long as there is sufficient time for IhERG
to activate at plateau voltages, similar WT IhERG
voltage-dependencies might be anticipated during ventricular AP commands taken from different species with ventricular APs possessing a high plateau phase (for example, see (21) for data obtained using both guinea-pig and rabbit AP commands). Accordingly, WT IhERG
during human ventricular AP commands in the present study had a very similar voltage-dependence to that observed at 37°C previously with native or simulated guinea-pig ventricular AP commands (15, 19, 21).
activation is able to occur as normal
for N588K-hERG, but due to the relative lack of channel inactivation the current
profile peaks much earlier during the AP and then follows the course of membrane
repolarisation (15, 14). The effects of the N588K mutation on the voltage-dependence
during ventricular APs seen here are
quantitatively similar to those observed using a guinea-pig ventricular AP command
at 37°C (15) and qualitatively similar to those seen at ambient temperature
using canine AP commands (5, 14). Although our ventricular AP clamp data are
suggestive of a significant increase to IhERG
amplitude as well as an altered time-course during ventricular APs for N588K-hERG,
due to potential differences in functional channel expression in WT and N588K-hERG
expressing cell lines, caution is required in making any direct quantitative
comparison between WT and N588K current magnitudes from these experiments. However,
the simulations in Figs. 5Ai
utilised similar baseline
conductance values to one another and so are not subject to this limitation.
These data indicate that, solely as a result of loss of voltage-dependent inactivation/rectification,
the maximal outward IhERG
during the AP command
in the SQT1 condition approached five-fold that during the control (WT IhERG
condition. Thus, the N588K mutation can be expected to greatly increase the
magnitude and contribution of IhERG
to ventricular AP repolarisation. Additionally, as indicated by the G-V plots
in Fig. 1
of this study (see also (15)), N588K-hERG contributes outward
conductance more consistently throughout ventricular AP repolarisation than
does WT-hERG. The net result of these changes to IKr
in SQT1 is abbreviated ventricular repolarisation and associated shortening
of the QT interval (2, 5, 6).
Effects of N588K on the profile of IhERG during Purkinje fibre and atrial APs
A recent study by Gaborit and colleagues (43) of relative expression of a range
of ion channel mRNAs in different regions of non-diseased human heart has reported
hERG to be the most highly expressed K+
in ventricle and Purkinje fibres and the second most highly expressed (after
Kv1.5) in atria. Notably, uniform hERG expression levels were observed in the
three regions (43). On this basis it is reasonable to conclude that the N588K
mutation could affect the contribution of IKr
to AP repolarisation in all three regions. However, the electrophysiological
consequences of the mutation are unlikely to be equivalent for each region,
due to a fast phase 1 repolarization and absence of a high plateau phase in
atrial and Purkinje fibre APs. Indeed, WT IhERG
profile during atrial and Purkinje AP or AP-like voltage commands differs from
that during ventricular APs (14, 19, 44, 45). The importance of the plateau
phase in dictating IKr
magnitude and repolarisation profile is further illustrated: (i) by the fact
that it has been shown that the magnitude of WT IhERG
during a Purkinje fibre AP command can be increased when the AP plateau is artificially
elevated to more positive voltages (45), and (ii) by the observation that the
magnitude of WT (Control) IhERG
in our simulated
AP clamp experiments (Fig. 5
) differed between the different AP command
The profile of WT IhERG
during Purkinje fibre
AP commands at 37 °C in the present study is broadly similar to that reported
by Lu and colleagues (19) for heterologously expressed hERG and for native canine
Purkinje fibre IKr
during a descending ramp
protocol (46). The use of the same Purkinje fibre AP waveform as used to study
N588K-hERG previously at ambient temperature allows direct comparison between
our study and that of Cordeiro et al
(14). Comparatively little WT IhERG
was observed during a Purkinje fibre AP command at ambient temperature and little
difference was seen when N588K hERG was studied (14). By contrast, in the present
study, we found that the N588K mutation did alter the voltage-dependence and
magnitude of IhERG
during a Purkinje fibre AP
command, but that this occurred to a lesser extent than for the ventricular
AP command. Notably, the difference in peak repolarising current density between
ventricular and Purkinje waveforms was greater for N588K than for WT IhERG
This occurred whether hERG alone was studied or whether it was co-expressed
with MiRP1. Although the functional significance of MiRP1 to native IKr
remains a matter for debate, regional comparisons in the canine heart suggest
that MiRP1 (at both mRNA and protein levels) is expressed most highly in Purkinje
fibres (30). It is noteworthy, therefore, that although MiRP1 co-expression
had comparatively little effect on the overall timing of WT and N588K IhERG
during the different AP waveforms, when hERG was co-expressed with MiRP1 in
the present study (paralleling co-expression in the earlier study by (14)) the
effect of the N588K mutation on the difference in maximal IhERG
density during repolarisation between ventricular and Purkinje fibre APs was
greater than for hERG expressed alone. The simulation data presented in Fig.
are concordant with the experimental data in Fig. 3
a clear augmentation of IhERG
during the Purkinje
fibre AP in the setting of SQT1, whilst they also demonstrate clearly that the
extent of the increase is smaller than during a ventricular AP waveform. Collectively,
our data provide the first evidence that, at mammalian physiological temperature,
in SQT1 is likely to be greater than normal in both ventricular and Purkinje
fibre APs, whilst at the same time heterogeneity in repolarising IhERG
between ventricular cells and Purkinje fibres also is likely to be augmented.
The WT IhERG
profile during the atrial AP command
seen in this study resembles closely that reported previously for heterologously
expressed WT hERG by Lu et al
(19). Additionally, the voltage at which
peak repolarising current occurred during atrial AP commands is similar to that
reported by Muraki et al
(44) for rabbit atrial IKr
elicited by triangular ‘AP-like’ commands. The atrial AP command used here lacked
a high plateau phase and the magnitude of WT currents was much smaller than
for a ventricular AP waveform applied to the same cells, as observed previously
by Lu et al
(19). Nevertheless, the N588K mutation still resulted in
a modest positive voltage shift in peak repolarising IhERG
and contribution of outward (repolarising) conductance earlier during the AP
command. Simulation of the effects of SQT1 on IhERG
during an atrial AP command waveform showed more than a doubling of maximal
amplitude during AP repolarisation. In
the clinical setting, patients with SQT1 have been found to have shortened atrial
effective refractory periods (ERPs), which is consistent with accelerated atrial
repolarisation (1-4). Our observations provide an explanation for an underlying
basis to atrial ERP shortening, in providing the first demonstration that IKr
is likely to contribute greater repolarising current earlier during the atrial
AP in the setting of SQT1. It is worth noting that there is experimental evidence
for the existence of different AP morphologies in human atrium (e.g. (47, 48)).
To take account of this, in additional experiments (not shown), we applied an
atrial AP command generated using the Courtemanche et al
which differed in profile from the Nygren et al
(37) AP shown in Fig.
. Maximal IhERG
during repolarisation then
occurred at -41.44 ± 1.1 mV (n = 8 cells) for WT IhERG
and -12.18 ± 0.4 mV (n = 7 cells) for N588K IhERG
representing a +29 mV shift in peak repolarising current (compared to ~+15 mV
with the Nygren AP waveform). Peak IhERG
Courtemanche AP repolarisation was also 2.3-fold greater than that for the Nygren
AP in for WT-hERG and 3.0-fold greater for N588K-hERG. These observations indicate
that the effect of the N588K mutation can vary with atrial AP morphology, and
(as with Purkinje-fibre/ventricular waveform differences), this may augment
heterogeneity of atrial repolarisation and therefore, potentially, of refractoriness.
Physiological relevance of differential effects of the N588K mutation under AP clamp
Abbreviated ventricular repolarisation is a signal feature of the SQTS and the
most marked effect of the N588K mutation under AP clamp occurs for ventricular
AP commands. Our data are consistent with a less extensive change to IKr
during atrial than ventricular APs, but support an earlier and greater contribution
of the current to atrial repolarisation, which would lead to AP abbreviation
and may help explain abbreviated atrial ERPs seen in SQT1 patients (1-4), thereby
disposing SQT1 patients towards re-entry and increased susceptibility to atrial
fibrillation (1, 6, 20). Under the conditions of this study the effect of the
N588K mutation on IhERG
during Purkinje fibre
APs was more marked than during atrial APs, but less extensive than during ventricular
APs. That this was evident not only during in vitro
also in computer simulations, indicates the profound influence of membrane potential
history (and hence AP morphology) on overall IhERG
profile. It is notable that SQTS patients exhibit prominent U waves (5, 24)
and completion of ventricular repolarisation in SQTS patients (measured from
the ECG T wave) has recently been suggested to be disassociated from the end
of mechanical systole in SQT patients, whilst the U wave shows a close correlation,
consistent with a mechanoelectrical basis for the U wave (50). However, our
findings support the notion (proposed previously on the basis of a relative
lack of effect of N588K on IhERG
Purkinje fibre APs at room temperature (14)) that heterogeneity between bulk
ventricular and Purkinje fibre repolarisation is likely to be exacerbated in
the setting of SQT1. This could contribute both to U wave formation and increased
dispersion of repolarisation and heterogeneity of refractoriness between Purkinje
fibres and ventricular tissue. In turn, such changes would be anticipated to
contribute to a substrate for ventricular arrhythmia in SQT1.
Altered timing of the response of IhERG to premature depolarising stimuli
When paired ventricular AP waveforms were applied, the N588K mutation had a
dual effect on the profile of outward IhERG
transients elicited by the second, premature stimulus. Initially (at time points
preceding ~ APD90) larger outward current transients were observed for N588K-hERG,
which can be attributed due to a combination of the channel’s attenuated inactivation
and faster recovery from inactivation at a given potential. However, there was
a subsequent time period where normalised N588K-hERG transient amplitude was
smaller than that for WT IhERG
. This period
was larger when comparisons took into account differences in APD in order to
approximate the situation in SQT1 (Fig. 6Ci
). WT-hERG channels can proceed
directly from an inactivated state to the closed state either directly or via
the open state (19), and due to altered voltage-dependence of inactivation (14,
15) a smaller proportion of N588K-hERG channels experience the inactive state
at potentials over the AP range. Thus, whilst the deactivation rate of IhERG
in conventional voltage-clamp experiments has been reported not to differ significantly
at 37°C between WT and N588K-hERG (15), the onset of deactivation at potentials
during a dynamic AP command may be able to commence earlier for N588K-hERG.
Moreover, as maximal outward transient amplitude occurs at earlier time-points
for N588K-hERG than for WT-hERG, a decline in the normalised outward transient
amplitude can be anticipated to occur earlier for mutant than WT channels. Potential
differences in functional channel expression between WT and N588K-hERG precluded
direct comparison of absolute outward current transient amplitudes from the
two channel types in these experiments, though (using a similar approach that
employed by Lu et al
(32)) we found the ratio of maximal transient amplitude
to peak repolarising current was greater for WT (6.4, n = 7 cells) than for
N588K-hERG (1.6, n = 7 cells).
When paired atrial AP commands were studied (Fig. 7A
), there was less
normalised N588K IhERG
compared to WT IhERG
at all premature depolarisation intervals examined. When paired Purkinje fibre
AP’s were studied (Fig. 7B
), there was a dual effect of the N588K mutation,
as was the case when normal and shortened premature ventricular AP’s were applied.
There was a period prior to the APD90 where N588K-hERG would be more effective
at suppressing premature depolarisations than WT-hERG. However, there was also
a time period where N588K-hERG would be less effective at suppressing premature
depolarisations. Thus, the response of IhERG
to premature stimulation was altered by the N588K mutation for both atrial and
Purkinje fibre APs; such changes may be particularly significant for Purkinje
fibres where repolarisation is largely dependent on IKr
An obvious question that arises from these data is what the possible functional
consequences might be of the altered response of N588K-hERG to premature depolarising
stimuli? It might be anticipated that, at time-points where premature stimuli
elicit larger outward transients, hERG can offset more extensively effects of
premature membrane potential depolarisation and therefore that decreases in
transients increase arrhythmic risk. However,
as highlighted by Lu et al
(32), the integrated response of cardiac tissue
to premature beats also depends on the behaviour of other ion channel types,
and particularly sodium channel reactivation. It is feasible, therefore, that
increases in hERG conductance during a premature stimulus could also be proarrhythmic,
by antagonising Na+
channel driven depolarisation
as occurs for loss of function Na+ channel mutations (32, 54). Thus the overall
consequences of altered responses of IhERG
premature stimuli are likely to depend on the combined impact of changes to
transient timing and amplitude and, in principle, it is feasible that alterations
to transient timing and current amplitude can have either synergistic or antagonistic
effects to one another. However, it is notable that, as shown in Fig. 6Cii
even when WT IhERG
was considered alone, ventricular
APD shortening resulted in a left-ward shift of the relationship between outward
current transients and time, resulting in reduced outward transients for some
time-points late in ventricular AP repolarisation. Thus, APD shortening per
is likely to influence the response of IKr
to premature depolarisation. This situation may be exacerbated when N588K-hERG
is considered and, coupled with decreased ERP in SQT1 (3, 6), lead to increased
vulnerability to premature arrhythmogenic depolarisation. As discussed below,
further future investigation, in silico
, is warranted to examine this
At present there are no phenotypically accurate animal models incorporating
gene mutations seen in human SQT patients (the closest model thus far reported
utilised a hERG channel activator that increases conductance without altering
inactivation kinetics (55, 56)). Therefore investigation of the likely consequences
of SQT mutations currently requires alternative approaches. The value of the
AP clamp technique is that in contrast to conventional voltage-clamp, it allows
ionic current profiles during physiological waveforms to be investigated directly
and takes account of membrane potential ‘history’ in a dynamic fashion that
is not otherwise possible (21, 22). Whilst potential limitations of the technique
are that data obtained with particular AP waveforms provide only a ‘snap-shot’
of how the channel of interest may behave and do not take into account other
ionic conductances present in native tissue, AP clamp data can be highly valuable
in providing insight into physiological ionic current profiles, particularly
when considered together with parallel simulations, as employed here. The data
in this study suggest that in SQT1 repolarising IKr
is altered during atrial, Purkinje and ventricular APs with the greatest effect
on the ventricles. The altered response of N588K-hERG to premature stimulation
may act in concert with accelerated repolarisation to influence the ability
of ventricular tissue to propagate premature beats. Our findings can now be
utilised together with prior, conventional voltage clamp data (14, 15) to produce
and validate further simulations of N588K-hERG in cell and tissue models. Although
computational models of IKr
where a rectification
factor is removed or altered to mimic attenuation of inactivation can provide
insight into the effect of the N588K mutation (Fig. 5
and see also (17,
18)), in order to replicate and examine the consequences of our findings regarding
premature stimulation, AP and tissue simulations incorporating continuous-time
Markov models of IKr
(cf (19)) are likely to
Support from the British Heart Foundation (PG/04/090, PG/06/139, PG/06/147,
FS/08/021) is gratefully acknowledged.
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