Sudden infant death syndrome and long QT syndrome: an epidemiological and genetic study

Int J Legal Med. 2006 May;120(3):129-37. doi: 10.1007/s00414-005-0019-0. Epub 2005 Jul 13.


Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a frequent cause of death among infants. The etiology of SIDS is unknown and several theories, including fatal ventricular arrhythmias, have been suggested. We performed an epidemiological and genetic investigation of SIDS victims to estimate the presence of inherited long QT syndrome (LQTS) as a contributor for SIDS. Forty-one consecutively collected and unrelated SIDS cases were characterized by clinical and epidemiological criteria. We performed a comprehensive gene mutation screening with single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis and sequencing techniques of the most relevant LQTS genes to assess mutation frequencies. In vitro characterization of identified mutants was subsequently performed by heterologous expression experiments in Chinese hamster ovary cells and in Xenopus laevis oocytes. A positive family history for LQTS was suspected by mild prolonged Q-T interval in family members in 2 of the 41 SIDS cases (5%). In neither case, a family history of sudden cardiac death was present nor a mutation could be identified after thorough investigation. In another SIDS case, a heterozygous missense mutation (H105L) was identified in the N-terminal region of the KCNQ1 (LQTS 1) gene. Despite absence of this mutation in the general population and a high conservational degree of the residue H105 during evolution, electrophysiological investigations failed to show a significant difference between wild-type and KCNQ1(H105L)/minK-mediated I(Ks) currents. Our data suggest that a molecular diagnosis of SIDS related to LQTS genes is rare and that, even when an ion channel mutation is identified, this should be regarded with caution unless a pathophysiological relationship between SIDS and the electrophysiological characterization of the mutated ion channel has been demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Animals
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel / genetics
  • Long QT Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Long QT Syndrome / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death / genetics*


  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel