Abstract 5316: hERG 1b as a Potential Target for Inherited and Acquired Long QT Syndrome
Cardiac IKr is a critical repolarizing current in the heart and a target for inherited and acquired long QT syndrome. Biochemical studies show that native IKr channels are heteromers composed of both hERG 1a and 1b subunits, yet our current understanding of IKr functional properties derives primarily from studies of homo-oligomers of the original hERG 1a isolate. The hERG 1a and 1b subunits are identical except at the amino (NH2) terminus, which in hERG 1b is much shorter and has a unique primary sequence. We compared the biophysical properties of currents produced by hERG 1a and 1a/1b channels expressed in HEK-293 cells at near-physiological temperatures. We found that heteromeric hERG 1a/1b currents are much larger than hERG 1a currents and conduct 80% more charge during an action potential. This surprising difference corresponds to a two-fold increase in the apparent rates of activation and recovery from inactivation, which reduces rectification and facilitates current rebound during repolarization. Kinetic modeling shows these gating differences account quantitatively for the differences in current amplitude between the two channel types. Depending on the action potential model used, loss of 1b predicts an increase in action potential duration of 27 ms (7%) or 41 ms (17%), respectively. Drug sensitivity was also different. Compared to homomeric 1a channels, heteromeric 1a/1b channels were inhibited by E-4031 with a slower time course and a corresponding four-fold positive shift in the IC50. Differences in current kinetics and drug sensitivity were modeled by “NH2 mode” gating with conformational states bound by the amino terminus in hERG 1a homomers but not 1a/1b heteromers. The importance of hERG 1b in vivo is supported by the identification of a 1b-specific A8V missense mutation in 1/269 unrelated genotype-negative LQTS patients and absent in 400 control alleles. Mutant 1bA8V expressed alone or with hERG 1a in HEK-293 cells nearly eliminated 1b protein. Thus, mutations specifically disrupting hERG 1b function are expected to reduce cardiac IKr, prolong QT interval and enhance drug sensitivity, thus representing a potential mechanism underlying inherited or acquired LQTS.