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Front Physiol. 2017 Oct 4;8:757. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00757. eCollection 2017.

Trigger vs. Substrate: Multi-Dimensional Modulation of QT-Prolongation Associated Arrhythmic Dynamics by a hERG Channel Activator.

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School of Biomedical Sciences and Multidisciplinary Cardiovascular Research Centre, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR, United States.


Background: Prolongation of the QT interval of the electrocardiogram (ECG), underlain by prolongation of the action potential duration (APD) at the cellular level, is linked to increased vulnerability to cardiac arrhythmia. Pharmacological management of arrhythmia associated with QT prolongation is typically achieved through attempting to restore APD to control ranges, reversing the enhanced vulnerability to Ca2+-dependent afterdepolarisations (arrhythmia triggers) and increased transmural dispersion of repolarisation (arrhythmia substrate) associated with APD prolongation. However, such pharmacological modulation has been demonstrated to have limited effectiveness. Understanding the integrative functional impact of pharmacological modulation requires simultaneous investigation of both the trigger and substrate. Methods: We implemented a multi-scale (cell and tissue) in silico approach using a model of the human ventricular action potential, integrated with a model of stochastic 3D spatiotemporal Ca2+ dynamics, and parameter modification to mimic prolonged QT conditions. We used these models to examine the efficacy of the hERG activator MC-II-157c in restoring APD to control ranges, examined its effects on arrhythmia triggers and substrates, and the interaction of these arrhythmia triggers and substrates. Results: QT prolongation conditions promoted the development of spontaneous release events underlying afterdepolarisations during rapid pacing. MC-II-157c applied to prolonged QT conditions shortened the APD, inhibited the development of afterdepolarisations and reduced the probability of afterdepolarisations manifesting as triggered activity in single cells. In tissue, QT prolongation resulted in an increased transmural dispersion of repolarisation, which manifested as an increased vulnerable window for uni-directional conduction block. In some cases, MC-II-157c further increased the vulnerable window through its effects on INa. The combination of stochastic release event modulation and transmural dispersion of repolarisation modulation by MC-II-157c resulted in an integrative behavior wherein the arrhythmia trigger is reduced but the arrhythmia substrate is increased, leading to variable and non-linear overall vulnerability to arrhythmia. Conclusion: The relative balance of reduced trigger and increased substrate underlies a multi-dimensional role of MC-II-157c in modulation of cardiac arrhythmia vulnerability associated with prolonged QT interval.


QT interval; action potential duration; arrhythmia substrate; arrhythmia trigger; computational modeling; hERG activators

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