Objectives: We took advantage of the genetic isolate of Finns to characterize a common long QT syndrome (LQTS) mutation, and to estimate the prevalence of LQTS.
Background: The LQTS is caused by mutations in different ion channel genes, which vary in their molecular nature from family to family.
Methods: The potassium channel gene KCNQ1 was sequenced in two unrelated Finnish patients with Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome (JLNS), followed by genotyping of 114 LQTS probands and their available family members. The functional properties of the mutation were studied using a whole-cell patch-damp technique.
Results: We identified a novel missense mutation (G589D or KCNQ1-Fin) in the C-terminus of the KCNQ1 subunit. The voltage threshold of activation for the KCNQ1-Fin channel was markedly increased compared to the wild-type channel. This mutation was present in homozygous form in two siblings with JLNS, and in heterozygous form in 34 of 114 probands with Romano-Ward syndrome (RWS) and 282 family members. The mean (+/- SD) rate-corrected QT intervals of the heterozygous subjects (n = 316) and noncarriers (n = 423) were 460 +/- 40 ms and 410 +/- 20 ms (p < 0.001), respectively.
Conclusions: A single missense mutation of the KCNQ1 gene accounts for 30% of Finnish cases with LQTS, and it may be associated with both the RWS and JLNS phenotypes of the syndrome. The relative enrichment of this mutation most likely represents a founder gene effect. These circumstances provide an excellent opportunity to examine how genetic and nongenetic factors modify the LQTS phenotype.