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Circ Res. 2019 Feb 15;124(4):539-552. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.314050.

Predicting Patient Response to the Antiarrhythmic Mexiletine Based on Genetic Variation.

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From the Department of Biomedical Engineering (W.Z., T.L.V., P.H., J.D.M., P.A., K.M.N., J.R.S.), Washington University in St Louis, MO.
Molecular Cardiology, IRCCS Salvatore Maugeri Foundation, Pavia, Italy (A.M., S.G.P.).
Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine (J.D.M.), Washington University in St Louis, MO.
Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Pavia, Italy (S.G.P.).



Mutations in the SCN5A gene, encoding the α subunit of the Nav1.5 channel, cause a life-threatening form of cardiac arrhythmia, long QT syndrome type 3 (LQT3). Mexiletine, which is structurally related to the Na+ channel-blocking anesthetic lidocaine, is used to treat LQT3 patients. However, the patient response is variable, depending on the genetic mutation in SCN5A.


The goal of this study is to understand the molecular basis of patients' variable responses and build a predictive statistical model that can be used to personalize mexiletine treatment based on patient's genetic variant.


We monitored the cardiac Na+ channel voltage-sensing domain (VSD) conformational dynamics simultaneously with other gating properties for the LQT3 variants. To systematically identify the relationship between mexiletine block and channel biophysical properties, we used a system-based statistical modeling approach to connect the multivariate properties to patient phenotype. We found that mexiletine altered the conformation of the Domain III VSD, which is the same VSD that many tested LQT3 mutations affect. Analysis of 15 LQT3 variants showed a strong correlation between the activation of the Domain III-VSD and the strength of the inhibition of the channel by mexiletine. Based on this improved molecular-level understanding, we generated a systems-based model based on a dataset of 32 LQT3 patients, which then successfully predicted the response of 7 out of 8 patients to mexiletine in a blinded, retrospective trial.


Our results imply that the modulated receptor theory of local anesthetic action, which confines local anesthetic binding effects to the channel pore, should be revised to include drug interaction with the Domain III-VSD. Using an algorithm that incorporates this mode of action, we can predict patient-specific responses to mexiletine, improving therapeutic decision making.


electrophysiology; ion channels; long QT syndrome; mexiletine; precision medicine

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