TBX18 overexpression enhances pacemaker function in a rat subsidiary atrial pacemaker model of sick sinus syndrome

Moinuddin Choudhury, Nicholas Black, Azzah Alghamdi, Alicia D'Souza, Ruoxi Wang, Joseph Yanni Gerges, Halina Dobrzynski, Paul Kingston, Henggui Zhang, Mark Boyett, Gwilym Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sinoatrial node (SAN) is the primary pacemaker of the heart. Disease of the SAN, sick sinus syndrome, causes heart rate instability in the form of bradycardia and pauses, leading to exercise limitation and syncope. Biopacemaking aims to restore pacemaker activity by manipulating gene expression, and approaches utilising HCN channel overexpression have been widely used. We evaluated alternative gene targets for biopacemaking to restore normal SAN pacemaker physiology within bradycardic subsidiary atrial pacemaker (SAP) tissue, using the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger NCX1, and the transcription factors TBX3 and TBX18. TBX18 expression in SAP tissue restored normal SAN function, as assessed by increased rate (SAN 267.5 ± 13.6 bpm, SAP 144.1 ± 8.6 bpm, SAP‐TBX18 214.4 ± 14.4 bpm; P < 0.001), improved heart rate stability (standard deviation of RR intervals fell from 39.3 ± 7.2 ms to 6.9 ± 0.8 ms, P < 0.01; root mean square of successive differences of RR intervals fell from 41.7 ± 8.2 ms to 6.1 ± 1.2 ms, P < 0.01; standard deviation of points perpendicular to the line of identity of Poincaré plots (SD1) fell from 29.5 ± 5.8 ms to 7.9 ± 2.0 ms, P < 0.05) and restoration of isoprenaline response (increases in rates of SAN 65.5 ± 1.3%, SAP 28.4 ± 3.4% and SAP‐TBX18 103.3 ± 10.2%; P < 0.001). These changes were driven by a TBX18‐induced switch in the dominant HCN isoform in SAP tissue, with a significant upregulation of HCN2 (from 1.01 × 10−5 ± 2.2 × 10−6 to 2.8 × 10−5 ± 4.3 × 10−6 arbitrary units, P < 0.001). Biophysically detailed computer modelling incorporating isoform‐specific HCN channel electrophysiology confirmed that the measured changes in HCN abundance could account for the observed changes in beating rates. TBX3 and NCX1 were not effective in accelerating the rate of SAP tissue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6141-6155
Number of pages15
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number24
Early online date26 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2018


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