Cardiac ion channels and mechanisms for protection against atrial fibrillation

Rev Physiol Biochem Pharmacol. 2012;162:1-58. doi: 10.1007/112_2011_3.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is recognised as the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia in clinical practice. Ongoing drug development is aiming at obtaining atrial specific effects in order to prevent pro-arrhythmic, devastating ventricular effects. In principle, this is possible due to a different ion channel composition in the atria and ventricles. The present text will review the aetiology of arrhythmias with focus on AF and include a description of cardiac ion channels. Channels that constitute potentially atria-selective targets will be described in details. Specific focus is addressed to the recent discovery that Ca(2+)-activated small conductance K(+) channels (SK channels) are important for the repolarisation of atrial action potentials. Finally, an overview of current pharmacological treatment of AF is included.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / pharmacology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / drug therapy*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Ions
  • Models, Biological
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Ion Channels
  • Ions
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Potassium Channels
  • Calcium