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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2006 Jan-Apr;90(1-3):13-25. Epub 2005 Jun 4.

Serious workings of the funny current.

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1
Laboratory of Molecular Physiology and Neurobiology, Department of Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Milano, via Celoria 26, 20133 Milano, Italy. dario.difrancesco@unimi.it

Abstract

Since its first description in 1979 (Brown et al., 1979. Nature 280, 235-236), extensive work on the I(f) current has amply demonstrated its role in the generation and neurotransmitter-induced modulation of pacemaker activity in heart (DiFrancesco, 1993. Annual Review of Physiology 55, 455-472). At pacemaker voltages, I(f) is an inward current activated by negative voltage and by intracellular cAMP. Moderate beta-receptor stimulation accelerates, and vagal stimulation slows, cardiac rate by increasing and decreasing, respectively, I(f) at diastolic potentials via changes in cAMP level. Cloning of four isoforms of hyperpolarization-activated, cyclic-nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels in the late 1990s has shown their correlation to native f-channels. Comparison of the properties of native pacemaker channels with those of HCN channels has provided information concerning the composition and molecular features of native channels in different cardiac regions. The relevance of I(f) to pacemaker generation and modulation makes f-channels a natural target of drugs aiming to control pharmacologically heart rate. Agents selectively reducing heart rate have been developed which act by specific inhibition of I(f), such as ivabradine; these drugs have a high potential for treatment of diseases where heart rate reduction is beneficial, such as angina and heart failure. Knowledge of the molecular properties of HCN clones will help the development of drugs specifically interacting with cardiac, rather than neuronal pacemaker channels. Devices able to replace electronic pacemakers and based on the delivery of a cellular source of pacemaker channels to non-pacing tissue (biological pacemakers) are likely to be developed in the near future for use in therapies for diseases of heart rhythm.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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