The cardiac muscarinic receptor (M2R) regulates heart rate, in part, by modulating the acetylcholine (ACh) activated K+ current IK,ACh through dissociation of G-proteins, that in turn activate KACh channels. Recently, M2Rs were noted to exhibit intrinsic voltage sensitivity, i.e. their affinity for ligands varies in a voltage dependent manner. The voltage sensitivity of M2R implies that the affinity for ACh (and thus the ACh effect) varies throughout the time course of a cardiac electrical cycle. The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of M2R voltage sensitivity to the rate and shape of the human sinus node action potentials in physiological and pathophysiological conditions. We developed a Markovian model of the IK,ACh modulation by voltage and integrated it into a computational model of human sinus node. We performed simulations with the integrated model varying ACh concentration and voltage sensitivity. Low ACh exerted a larger effect on IK,ACh at hyperpolarized versus depolarized membrane voltages. This led to a slowing of the pacemaker rate due to an attenuated slope of phase 4 depolarization with only marginal effect on action potential duration and amplitude. We also simulated the theoretical effects of genetic variants that alter the voltage sensitivity of M2R. Modest negative shifts in voltage sensitivity, predicted to increase the affinity of the receptor for ACh, slowed the rate of phase 4 depolarization and slowed heart rate, while modest positive shifts increased heart rate. These simulations support our hypothesis that altered M2R voltage sensitivity contributes to disease and provide a novel mechanistic foundation to study clinical disorders such as atrial fibrillation and inappropriate sinus tachycardia.
Elucidation of the cellular basis of arrhythmias in ion channelopathy disorders is complicated by the inherent difficulties in studying human cardiac tissue. Thus we used a computer modeling approach to study the mechanisms of cellular dysfunction induced by mutations in inward rectifier potassium channel (Kir)2.1 that cause Andersen-Tawil syndrome (ATS). ATS is an autosomal dominant disorder associated with ventricular arrhythmias that uncommonly degenerate into the lethal arrhythmia torsade de pointes. We simulated the cellular and tissue effects of a potent disease-causing mutation D71V Kir2.1 with mathematical models of human ventricular myocytes and a bidomain model of transmural conduction. The D71V Kir2.1 mutation caused significant action potential duration prolongation in subendocardial, midmyocardial, and subepicardial myocytes but did not significantly increase transmural dispersion of repolarization. Simulations of the D71V mutation at shorter cycle lengths induced stable action potential alternans in midmyocardial, but not subendocardial or subepicardial cells. The action potential alternans was manifested as an abbreviated QRS complex in the transmural ECG, the result of action potential propagation failure in the midmyocardial tissue. In addition, our simulations of D71V mutation recapitulate several key ECG features of ATS, including QT prolongation, T-wave flattening, and QRS widening. Thus our modeling approach faithfully recapitulates several features of ATS and provides a mechanistic explanation for the low frequency of torsade de pointes arrhythmia in ATS.
While chloroquine remains an important therapeutic agent for treatment of malaria in many parts of the world, its safety margin is very narrow. Chloroquine inhibits the cardiac inward rectifier K+ current IK1 and can induce lethal ventricular arrhythmias. In this study, we characterized the biophysical and molecular basis of chloroquine block of Kir2.1 channels that underlie cardiac IK1. The voltage- and K+-dependence of chloroquine block implied that the binding site was located within the ion conduction pathway. Site-directed mutagenesis revealed the location of the chloroquine binding site within the cytoplasmic pore domain, rather than within the transmembrane pore. Molecular modeling suggested that chloroquine blocks Kir2.1 channels by plugging the cytoplasmic conduction pathway, stabilized by negatively charged and aromatic amino acids within a central pocket. Unlike most ion channel blockers, chloroquine does not bind within the transmembrane pore. These findings explain how a relatively low-affinity blocker like chloroquine can effectively block IK1 even in the presence of high affinity endogenous blockers. Moreover, our findings provide the structural framework for the design of safer, alternative compounds that are devoid of Kir2.1 blocking properties.
The heart rate is mediated by the G protein-coupled muscarinic receptor (M2R) activating the acetylcholine (ACh)-dependent K+ current (IKACh). Here, a novel model for IKACh gating is presented based on recent findings that M2R agonist binding is voltage-sensitive. Furthermore, ACh and pilocarpine (Pilo) manifest opposite voltage-dependent IKACh modulation. In a previous work, a 4-state Markov model of M2R reconstructing the voltage-dependent change in agonist affinity was proposed. In this work, a 2-state Markov model of IKACh gating purely dependent on the Gβγ concentration is proposed. IKACh is modeled based on the description of Zhang et al. Measurement data are used to parametrize the combined M2R and IKACh model for both ACh and Pilo. The channel model has a linear Gβγ dependent forward and a constant backward rate. For ACh and Pilo, optimal values of model parameters are found reconstructing the measured opposite voltage-dependent change in agonist affinity. The combined model is able to reconstruct the measured data regarding the agonist and voltage-dependent properties of the M2R-IKACh channel complex. In future studies, this channel will be integrated in a sinus node model to investigate the effect of the channel properties on heart rate