Background: The human ether-à-go-go-related gene (hERG 1a) potassium channel is critical for cardiac repolarization. hERG 1b, another variant subunit, co-assembles with hERG 1a, modulates channel biophysical properties and plays an important role in repolarization. Mutations of hERG 1a lead to type 2 long QT syndrome (LQT2), and increased risk for fatal arrhythmias. The functional consequences of these mutations in the presence of hERG 1b are not known.
Objective: To investigate whether hERG 1a mutants exert dominant negative gating and trafficking defects when co-expressed with hERG 1b.
Methods: Electrophysiology, co-immunoprecipitation, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) experiments in HEK293 cells and guinea pig cardiomyocytes were used to assess the mutants on gating and trafficking. Mutations of 1a-G965X and 1a-R1014X, relevant to gating and trafficking were introduced in the C-terminus region.
Results: The hERG 1a mutants when expressed alone did not result in decreased current amplitude. Compared to wild-type hERG 1a currents, 1a-G965X currents were significantly larger, whereas those produced by the 1a-R1014X mutant were similar in magnitude. Only when co-expressed with wild-type hERG 1a and 1b did a mutant phenotype emerge, with a marked reduction in surface expression, current amplitude, and a corresponding positive shift in the V1/2 of the activation curve. Co-immunoprecipitation and FRET assays confirmed association of mutant and wild-type subunits.
Conclusion: Heterologously expressed hERG 1a C-terminus truncation mutants, exert a dominant negative gating and trafficking effect only when co-expressed with hERG 1b. These findings may have potentially profound implications for LQT2 therapy.
Keywords: Cardiomyocytes; Guinea pig; HEK293; I(Kr); KCNH2; LQT2; Potassium channel; Truncation mutants; hERG 1a; hERG 1b.
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