Background: Brugada syndrome is associated with a high risk of sudden cardiac death and is caused by mutations in the cardiac voltage-gated sodium channel gene. Previously, the R282H-SCN5A mutation in the sodium channel gene was identified in patients with Brugada syndrome. In a family carrying the R282H-SCN5A mutation, an asymptomatic individual had a common H558R-SCN5A polymorphism and the mutation on separate chromosomes. Therefore, we hypothesized that the polymorphism could rescue the mutation.
Methods and results: In heterologous cells, expression of the mutation alone did not produce sodium current. However, coexpressing the mutation with the polymorphism produced significantly greater current than coexpressing the mutant with the wild-type gene, demonstrating that the polymorphism rescues the mutation. Using immunocytochemistry, we demonstrated that the R282H-SCN5A construct can traffic to the cell membrane only in the presence of the H558R-SCN5A polymorphism. Using fluorescence resonance energy transfer and protein fragments centered on H558R-SCN5A, we demonstrated that cardiac sodium channels preferentially interact when the polymorphism is expressed on one protein but not the other.
Conclusions: This study suggests a mechanism whereby the Brugada syndrome has incomplete penetrance. More importantly, this study suggests that genetic polymorphisms may be a potential target for future therapies aimed at rescuing specific dysfunctional protein channels.