Structural and Functional Properties of Subsidiary Atrial Pacemakers in a Goat Model of Sinus Node Disease

Luca Soattin, Zoltan Borbas, Jane Caldwell, Brian Prendergast, Akbar Vohra, Yawer Saeed, Andreas Hoschtitzky, Joseph Yanni, Andrew Atkinson, Sunil Jit Logantha, Balint Borbas, Clifford Garratt, Gwilym Matthew Morris, Halina Dobrzynski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The sinoatrial/sinus node (SAN) is the primary pacemaker of the heart. In humans, SAN is surrounded by the paranodal area (PNA). Although the PNA function remains debated, it is thought to act as a subsidiary atrial pacemaker (SAP) tissue and become the dominant pacemaker in the setting of sinus node disease (SND). Large animal models of SND allow characterization of SAP, which might be a target for novel treatment strategies for SAN diseases.

Methods: A goat model of SND was developed (n = 10) by epicardially ablating the SAN and validated by mapping of emergent SAP locations through an ablation catheter and surface electrocardiogram (ECG). Structural characterization of the goat SAN and SAP was assessed by histology and immunofluorescence techniques.

Results: When the SAN was ablated, SAPs featured a shortened atrioventricular conduction, consistent with the location in proximity of atrioventricular junction. SAP recovery time showed significant prolongation compared to the SAN recovery time, followed by a decrease over a follow-up of 4 weeks. Like the SAN tissue, the SAP expressed the main isoform of pacemaker hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channel 4 (HCN4) and Na+/Ca2+ exchanger 1 (NCX1) and no high conductance connexin 43 (Cx43). Structural characterization of the right atrium (RA) revealed that the SAN was located at the earliest activation [i.e., at the junction of the superior vena cava (SVC) with the RA] and was surrounded by the paranodal-like tissue, extending down to the inferior vena cava (IVC). Emerged SAPs were localized close to the IVC and within the thick band of the atrial muscle known as the crista terminalis (CT).

Conclusions: SAN ablation resulted in the generation of chronic SAP activity in 60% of treated animals. SAP displayed development over time and was located within the previously discovered PNA in humans, suggesting its role as dominant pacemaker in SND. Therefore, SAP in goat constitutes a promising stable target for electrophysiological modification to construct a fully functioning pacemaker.

Original languageEnglish
Article number592229
Pages (from-to)592229
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021


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