Flecainide reduces Ca(2+) spark and wave frequency via inhibition of the sarcolemmal sodium current

Cardiovasc Res. 2013 May 1;98(2):286-96. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvt012. Epub 2013 Jan 19.


Aims: Ca(2+) waves are thought to be important in the aetiology of ventricular tachyarrhythmias. There have been conflicting results regarding whether flecainide reduces Ca(2+) waves in isolated cardiomyocytes. We sought to confirm whether flecainide inhibits waves in the intact cardiomyocyte and to elucidate the mechanism.

Methods and results: We imaged spontaneous sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca(2+) release events in healthy adult rat cardiomyocytes. Variation in stimulation frequency was used to produce Ca(2+) sparks or waves. Spark frequency, wave frequency, and wave velocity were reduced by flecainide in the absence of a reduction of SR Ca(2+) content. Inhibition of I(Na) via alternative pharmacological agents (tetrodotoxin, propafenone, or lidocaine) produced similar changes. To assess the contribution of I(Na) to spark and wave production, voltage clamping was used to activate contraction from holding potentials of -80 or -40 mV. This confirmed that reducing Na(+) influx during myocyte stimulation is sufficient to reduce waves and that flecainide only causes Ca(2+) wave reduction when I(Na) is active. It was found that Na(+)/Ca(2+)-exchanger (NCX)-mediated Ca(2+) efflux was significantly enhanced by flecainide and that the effects of flecainide on wave frequency could be reversed by reducing [Na(+)](o), suggesting an important downstream role for NCX function.

Conclusion: Flecainide reduces spark and wave frequency in the intact rat cardiomyocyte at therapeutically relevant concentrations but the mechanism involves I(Na) reduction rather than direct ryanodine receptor (RyR2) inhibition. Reduced I(Na) results in increased Ca(2+) efflux via NCX across the sarcolemma, reducing Ca(2+) concentration in the vicinity of the RyR2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects*
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2 / physiology
  • Flecainide / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sarcolemma / metabolism*
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Sodium-Calcium Exchanger / physiology
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*


  • Sodium-Calcium Exchanger
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel Blockers
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2
  • Flecainide