Molecular Mapping of Sinoatrial Node HCN Channel Expression in the Human Heart.

Ning Li, Thomas A Csepe, Brian J Hansen, Halina Dobrzynski, Robert S D Higgins, Ahmet Kilic, Peter J Mohler, Paul M L Janssen, Michael R Rosen, Brandon J Biesiadecki, Vadim V Fedorov

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    BACKGROUND: The hyperpolarization-activated current, If, plays an important role in sinoatrial node (SAN) pacemaking. Surprisingly, the distribution of hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels in human SAN has only been investigated at the mRNA level. Our aim was to define the expression pattern of HCN proteins in human SAN and different atrial regions. METHODS AND RESULTS: Entire SAN complexes were isolated from failing (n=5) and nonfailing (n=9) human hearts cardioplegically arrested in the operating room. Three-dimensional intramural SAN structure was identified as the fibrotic compact region around the SAN artery with Connexin 43-negative pacemaker cardiomyocytes visualized in Masson's trichrome and immunostained cryosections. SAN protein was precisely isolated from the adjacent frozen SAN tissue blocks using a 16G biopsy needle. The purity of the SAN protein was confirmed by Connexin 43 immunoblot. All 3 HCN isoform proteins were detected in SAN. HCN1 was predominantly distributed in the human SAN with a 125.1±40.2 (n=12) expression ratio of SAN to right atrium. HCN2 and HCN4 expression levels were higher in SAN than in atria, with SAN to right atrium ratios of 6.1±0.9 and 4.6±0.6 (n=12), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to conduct precise 3D molecular mapping of the human SAN by isolating pure pacemaker SAN tissue. All 3 cardiac HCN isoforms had higher expression in the SAN than in the atria. HCN1 was almost exclusively expressed in SAN, emphasizing its utility as a new specific molecular marker of the human SAN and as a potential target of specific treatments intended to modify sinus rhythm.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCirculation. Arrhythmia and electrophysiology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


    • HCN pacemaker channels
    • heart failure
    • human heart
    • sinoatrial node
    • sinus node dysfunction


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