In vivo identification of genes that modify either-a-go-go-related gene activity in Caenorhabditis elegans may also affect human cardiac arrhythmia

Christina I. Petersen, Toni R. McFarland, Svetlana Z. Stepanovic, Ping Yang, David J. Reiner, Kenshi Hayashi, Alfred L. George, Dan M. Rodent, James H. Thomas, Jeffrey R. Balser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

Human ether-a-go-go-related gene (HERG) encodes the pore-forming subunit of IKr, a cardiac K+ channel. Although many commonly used drugs block IKr, in certain individuals, this action evokes a paradoxical life-threatening cardiac rhythm disturbance, known as the acquired long QT syndrome (aLQTS). Although aLQTS has become the leading cause of drug withdrawal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, DNA sequencing in aLQTS patients has revealed HERG mutations only in rare cases, suggesting that unknown HERG modulators are often responsible. By using the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, we have developed in vivo behavioral assays that identify candidate modulators of unc-103, the worm HERG orthologue. By using RNA-interference methods, we have shown that worm homologues of two HERG-interacting proteins, Hyperkinetic and K channel regulator 1 (KCR1), modify unc-103 function. Examination of the human KCR1 sequence in patients with drug-induced cardiac repolarization defects revealed a sequence variation (the substitution of isoleucine 447 by valine, 1447V) that occurs at a reduced frequency (1.1%) relative to a matched control population (7.0%), suggesting that 1447V may be an allele for reduced aLQTS susceptibility. This clinical result is supported by in vitro studies of HERG dofetilide sensitivity by using coexpression of HERG with wild-type and I447V KCR1 cDNAs. Our studies demonstrate the feasibility of using C. elegans to assay and potentially identify aLQTS candidate genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11773-11778
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume101
Issue number32
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 10 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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