The G Protein–Gated Potassium Current IK,ACh Is Constitutively Active in Patients With Chronic Atrial Fibrillation
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Background— The molecular mechanism of increased background inward rectifier current (IK1) in atrial fibrillation (AF) is not fully understood. We tested whether constitutively active acetylcholine (ACh)-activated IK,ACh contributes to enhanced basal conductance in chronic AF (cAF).
Methods and Results— Whole-cell and single-channel currents were measured with standard voltage-clamp techniques in atrial myocytes from patients with sinus rhythm (SR) and cAF. The selective IK,ACh blocker tertiapin was used for inhibition of IK,ACh. Whole-cell basal current was larger in cAF than in SR, whereas carbachol (CCh)-activated IK,ACh was lower in cAF than in SR. Tertiapin (0.1 to 100 nmol/L) reduced IK,ACh in a concentration-dependent manner with greater potency in cAF than in SR (−logIC50: 9.1 versus 8.2; P<0.05). Basal current contained a tertiapin-sensitive component that was larger in cAF than in SR (tertiapin [10 nmol/L]-sensitive current at −100 mV: cAF, −6.7±1.2 pA/pF, n=16/5 [myocytes/patients] versus SR, −1.7±0.5 pA/pF, n=24/8), suggesting contribution of constitutively active IK,ACh to basal current. In single-channel recordings, constitutively active IK,ACh was prominent in cAF but not in SR (channel open probability: cAF, 5.4±0.7%, n=19/9 versus SR, 0.1±0.05%, n=16/9; P<0.05). Moreover, IK1 channel open probability was higher in cAF than in SR (13.4±0.4%, n=19/9 versus 11.4±0.7%, n=16/9; P<0.05) without changes in other channel characteristics.
Conclusions— Our results demonstrate that larger basal inward rectifier K+ current in cAF consists of increased IK1 activity and constitutively active IK,ACh. Blockade of IK,ACh may represent a new therapeutic target in AF.
Received July 14, 2005; revision received September 22, 2005; accepted October 7, 2005.