Human atrial action potential and Ca2+ model: sinus rhythm and chronic atrial fibrillation

Circ Res. 2011 Oct 14;109(9):1055-66. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.111.253955. Epub 2011 Sep 15.


Rationale: Understanding atrial fibrillation (AF) requires integrated understanding of ionic currents and Ca2+ transport in remodeled human atrium, but appropriate models are limited.

Objective: To study AF, we developed a new human atrial action potential (AP) model, derived from atrial experimental results and our human ventricular myocyte model.

Methods and results: Atria versus ventricles have lower I(K1), resulting in more depolarized resting membrane potential (≈7 mV). We used higher I(to,fast) density in atrium, removed I(to,slow), and included an atrial-specific I(Kur). I(NCX) and I(NaK) densities were reduced in atrial versus ventricular myocytes according to experimental results. SERCA function was altered to reproduce human atrial myocyte Ca2+ transients. To simulate chronic AF, we reduced I(CaL), I(to), I(Kur) and SERCA, and increased I(K1),I(Ks) and I(NCX). We also investigated the link between Kv1.5 channelopathy, [Ca2+]i, and AF. The sinus rhythm model showed a typical human atrial AP morphology. Consistent with experiments, the model showed shorter APs and reduced AP duration shortening at increasing pacing frequencies in AF or when I(CaL) was partially blocked, suggesting a crucial role of Ca2+ and Na+ in this effect. This also explained blunted Ca2+ transient and rate-adaptation of [Ca2+]i and [Na+]i in chronic AF. Moreover, increasing [Na+]i and altered I(NaK) and I(NCX) causes rate-dependent atrial AP shortening. Blocking I(Kur) to mimic Kv1.5 loss-of-function increased [Ca2+]i and caused early afterdepolarizations under adrenergic stress, as observed experimentally.

Conclusions: Our study provides a novel tool and insights into ionic bases of atrioventricular AP differences, and shows how Na+ and Ca2+ homeostases critically mediate abnormal repolarization in AF.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / metabolism
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Heart Atria / metabolism
  • Heart Atria / physiopathology*
  • Heart Ventricles / metabolism
  • Heart Ventricles / physiopathology
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Kv1.5 Potassium Channel / physiology
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / pathology
  • Sinoatrial Node / physiopathology*
  • Sodium / metabolism


  • Calcium Channels, L-Type
  • Kv1.5 Potassium Channel
  • Sodium
  • Calcium