In vivo knockdown of SK3 channels using antisense oligonucleotides protects against atrial fibrillation in rats

Arnela Saljic , Luca Soattin, Dagmar S. Trachsel, Kim Boddum, Thomas Jespersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: GapmeRs are oligonucleotides that bind to a specific RNA sequence and thereby affecting posttranscriptional gene regulation. They therefore hold the potential to manipulate targets where current pharmacological modulators are inefficient or exhibit adverse side effects. Here, we show that a treatment with a GapmeR, mediating knockdown of small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels (SK3), has an in vivo protective effect against atrial fibrillation (AF) in rats.

Material and methods: A unique SK3-GapmeR design was selected after thorough in vitro evaluation. 22 rats were randomly assigned to receive either 50 mg/kg SK3-GapmeR or vehicle subcutaneously once a week for two weeks. Langendorff experiments were performed seven days after the last injection, where action potential duration (APD90), effective refractory period (ERP) and AF propensity were investigated. SK3 channel activity was evaluated using the SK channel blocker, ICA (N-(pyridin-2-yl)-4-(pyridine-2-yl)thiazol-2-amine). SK3 protein expression was assessed by Western Blot.

Results: The designed GapmeR effectively down-regulate the SK3 protein expression in the heart (48% downregulation, p = 0.0095) and did indeed protect against AF. Duration of AF episodes elicited by burst pacing in the rats treated with SK3-GapmeR was reduced 78% compared to controls (3.7 s vs. 16.8 s, p = 0.0353). The number of spontaneous AF episodes were decreased by 68% in the SK3-GapmeR group (39 episodes versus 123 in the control group, respectively) and were also significantly shorter in duration (7.2 s versus 29.7 s in the control group, p = 0.0327). Refractoriness was not altered at sinus rhythm, but ERP prolongation following ICA application was blunted in the SK3-GapmeR group.

Conclusion: The selected GapmeR silenced the cardiac SK3 channels, thereby preventing AF in rats. Thus, GapmeR technology can be applied as an experimental tool of downregulation of cardiac proteins and could potentially offer a novel modality for treatment of cardiac diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-26
Number of pages9
JournalJ Mol Cell Cardiol
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • SK3 channels
  • GapmeR
  • Antisense oligonucleotides
  • atrial fibrillation

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Biotechnology


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