Sodium current reduction unmasks a structure-dependent substrate for arrhythmogenesis in the normal ventricles

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 28;9(1):e86947. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086947. eCollection 2014.


Background: Organ-scale arrhythmogenic consequences of source-sink mismatch caused by impaired excitability remain unknown, hindering the understanding of pathophysiology in disease states like Brugada syndrome and ischemia.

Objective: We sought to determine whether sodium current (INa) reduction in the structurally normal heart unmasks a regionally heterogeneous substrate for the induction of sustained arrhythmia by premature ventricular contractions (PVCs).

Methods: We conducted simulations in rabbit ventricular computer models with 930 unique combinations of PVC location (10 sites) and coupling interval (250-400 ms), INa reduction (30 or 40% of normal levels), and post-PVC sinus rhythm (arrested or persistent). Geometric characteristics and source-sink mismatch were quantitatively analyzed by calculating ventricular wall thickness and a newly formulated 3D safety factor (SF), respectively.

Results: Reducing INa to 30% of its normal level created a substrate for sustained arrhythmia induction by establishing large regions of critical source-sink mismatch (SF<1) for ectopic wavefronts propagating from thin to thick tissue. In the same simulations but with 40% of normal INa, PVCs did not induce reentry because the volume of tissue with SF<1 was >95% smaller. Likewise, when post-PVC sinus activations were persistent instead of arrested, no ectopic excitations initiated sustained reentry because sinus activation breakthroughs engulfed the excitable gap.

Conclusion: Our new SF formulation can quantify ectopic wavefront propagation robustness in geometrically complex 3D tissue with impaired excitability. This novel methodology was applied to show that INa reduction precipitates source-sink mismatch, creating a potent substrate for sustained arrhythmia induction by PVCs originating near regions of ventricular wall expansion, such as the RV outflow tract.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / pathology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology*
  • Heart Ventricles / pathology*
  • Heart Ventricles / physiopathology*
  • Rabbits
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism*
  • Ventricular Premature Complexes / pathology
  • Ventricular Premature Complexes / physiopathology


  • Sodium Channels