Inhibition of the hERG potassium channel by phenanthrene - a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon pollutant

Ehab Al-Moubarak, Holly Shiels, Yihong Zhang, Chunyun Du, Oliver Hanington, Stephen C. Harmer, Christopher E. Dempsey, Jules Hancox

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The lipophilic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) phenanthrene is relatively abundant in polluted air and water and can access and accumulate in human tissue. Phenanthrene has been reported to interact with cardiac ion channels in several fish species. This study was undertaken to investigate the ability of phenanthrene to interact with hERG ( human Ether-à-go-go-Related Gene ) encoded Kv11.1 channels, which play a central role in human ventricular repolarization. Pharmacological inhibition of hERG can be proarrhythmic. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings of hERG current (I hERG ) were made from HEK293 cells expressing wildtype (WT) and mutant hERG channels. WT I hERG1a was inhibited by phenanthrene with an IC 50 of 17.6 ± 1.7 µM, whilst I hERG1a/1b exhibited an IC 50 of 1.8 ± 0.3 µM. WT I hERG block showed marked voltage and time-dependence, indicative of dependence of inhibition on channel gating. The inhibitory effect of phenanthrene was markedly impaired by the attenuated-inactivation N588K mutation. Remarkably,mutations of S6 domain aromatic amino acids (Y652, F656) in the canonical drug binding site did not impair the inhibitory action of phenanthrene; the Y652A mutation augmented I hERG block. In contrast, the F557L (S5) and M651A (S6) mutations impaired the ability of phenanthrene to inhibit I hERG , as did the S624A mutation below the selectivity filter region. Computational docking using a cryo-EM derive hERG structure supported the mutagenesis data. Thus, phenanthrene acts as an inhibitor of the hERG K + channel by directly interacting with the channel, binding to a distinct site in the channel pore domain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2021

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