In silicoAssessment of pharmacotherapy for human atrial patho-electrophysiology associated with hERG-linked short QT syndrome

Dominic G. Whittaker, Jules C. Hancox, Henggui Zhang

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Short QT syndrome variant 1 (SQT1) arises due to gain-of-function mutations to the human Ether-à-go-go-Related Gene (hERG), which encodes the a subunit of channels carrying rapid delayed rectifier potassium current, IKr. In addition to QT interval shortening and ventricular arrhythmias, SQT1 is associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation (AF), which is often the only clinical presentation. However, the underlying basis of AF and its pharmacological treatment remain incompletely understood in the context of SQT1. In this study, computational modeling was used to investigate mechanisms of human atrial arrhythmogenesis consequent to a SQT1 mutation, as well as pharmacotherapeutic effects of selected class I drugs-disopyramide, quinidine, and propafenone. A Markov chain formulation describing wild type (WT) and N588K-hERG mutant IKr was incorporated into a contemporary human atrial action potential (AP) model, which was integrated into one-dimensional (1D) tissue strands, idealized 2D sheets, and a 3D heterogeneous, anatomical human atria model. Multi-channel pharmacological effects of disopyramide, quinidine, and propafenone, including binding kinetics for IKr/hERG and sodium current, INa, were considered. Heterozygous and homozygous formulations of the N588K-hERG mutation shortened the AP duration (APD) by 53 and 86 ms, respectively, which abbreviated the effective refractory period (ERP) and excitation wavelength in tissue, increasing the lifespan and dominant frequency (DF) of scroll waves in the 3D anatomical human atria. At the concentrations tested in this study, quinidine most effectively prolonged the APD and ERP in the setting of SQT1, followed by disopyramide and propafenone. In 2D simulations, disopyramide and quinidine promoted re-entry termination by increasing the re-entry wavelength, whereas propafenone induced secondary waves which destabilized the re-entrant circuit. In 3D simulations, the DF of re-entry was reduced in a dose-dependent manner for disopyramide and quinidine, and propafenone to a lesser extent. All of the anti-arrhythmic agents promoted pharmacological conversion, most frequently terminating re-entry in the order quinidine > propafenone = disopyramide. Our findings provide further insight into mechanisms of SQT1-related AF and a rational basis for the pursuit of combined IKr and INa block based pharmacological strategies in the treatment of SQT1-linked AF.

Original languageEnglish
Article number01888
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberJAN
Early online date11 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Arrhythmia
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Class I anti-arrhythmics
  • HERG
  • Human atria
  • Potassium channels
  • Short QT syndrome


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