Reduced response to IKr blockade and altered hERG1a/1b stoichiometry in human heart failure

Katherine M. Holzem, Juan F. Gomez, Alexey V. Glukhov, Eli J. Madden, Aaron C. Koppel, Gregory A. Ewald, Beatriz Trenor, Igor R. Efimov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Heart failure (HF) claims 250,000 lives per year in the US, and nearly half of these deaths are sudden and presumably due to ventricular tachyarrhythmias. QT interval and action potential (AP) prolongation are hallmark proarrhythmic changes in the failing myocardium, which potentially result from alterations in repolarizing potassium currents. Thus, we aimed to examine whether decreased expression of the rapid delayed rectifier potassium current, IKr, contributes to repolarization abnormalities in human HF. To map functional IKr expression across the left ventricle (LV), we optically imaged coronary-perfused LV free wall from donor and end-stage failing human hearts. The LV wedge preparation was used to examine transmural AP durations at 80% repolarization (APD80), and treatment with the IKr-blocking drug, E-4031, was utilized to interrogate functional expression. We assessed the percent change in APD80 post-IKr blockade relative to baseline APD80 (∆APD80) and found that ∆APD80s are reduced in failing versus donor hearts in each transmural region, with 0.35-, 0.43-, and 0.41-fold reductions in endo-, mid-, and epicardium, respectively (p = 0.008, 0.037, and 0.022). We then assessed hERG1 isoform gene and protein expression levels using qPCR and Western blot. While we did not observe differences in hERG1a or hERG1b gene expression between donor and failing hearts, we found a shift in the hERG1a:hERG1b isoform stoichiometry at the protein level. Computer simulations were then conducted to assess IKr block under E-4031 influence in failing and nonfailing conditions. Our results confirmed the experimental observations and E-4031-induced relative APD80 prolongation was greater in normal conditions than in failing conditions, provided that the cellular model of HF included a significant downregulation of IKr. In human HF, the response to IKr blockade is reduced, suggesting decreased functional IKr expression. This attenuated functional response is associated with altered hERG1a:hERG1b protein stoichiometry in the failing human LV, and failing cardiomyoctye simulations support the experimental findings. Thus, of IKr protein and functional expression may be important determinants of repolarization remodeling in the failing human LV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-92
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart failure
  • Potassium channels
  • Remodeling
  • Repolarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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