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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2019 Dec 1;317(6):R921-R931. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00190.2019. Epub 2019 Oct 30.

Investigating the utility of adult zebrafish ex vivo whole hearts to pharmacologically screen hERG channel activator compounds.

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Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.


There is significant interest in the potential utility of small-molecule activator compounds to mitigate cardiac arrhythmia caused by loss of function of hERG1a voltage-gated potassium channels. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) have been proposed as a cost-effective, high-throughput drug-screening model to identify compounds that cause hERG1a dysfunction. However, there are no reports on the effects of hERG1a activator compounds in zebrafish and consequently on the utility of the model to screen for potential gain-of-function therapeutics. Here, we examined the effects of hERG1a blocker and types 1 and 2 activator compounds on isolated zkcnh6a (zERG3) channels in the Xenopus oocyte expression system as well as action potentials recorded from ex vivo adult zebrafish whole hearts using optical mapping. Our functional data from isolated zkcnh6a channels show that under the conditions tested, these channels are blocked by hERG1a channel blockers (dofetilide and terfenadine), and activated by type 1 (RPR260243) and type 2 (NS1643, PD-118057) hERG1a activators with higher affinity than hKCNH2a channels (except NS1643), with differences accounted for by different biophysical properties in the two channels. In ex vivo zebrafish whole hearts, two of the three hERG1a activators examined caused abbreviation of the action potential duration (APD), whereas hERG1a blockers caused APD prolongation. These data represent, to our knowledge, the first pharmacological characterization of isolated zkcnh6a channels and the first assessment of hERG enhancing therapeutics in zebrafish. Our findings lead us to suggest that the zebrafish ex vivo whole heart model serves as a valuable tool in the screening of hKCNH2a blocker and activator compounds.


activators; hERG; optical mapping; zERG; zebrafish; zkcnh6


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