Unexplained cardiac arrest: a tale of conflicting interpretations of KCNQ1 genetic test results

Clin Res Cardiol. 2018 Aug;107(8):670-678. doi: 10.1007/s00392-018-1233-3. Epub 2018 Mar 26.


Objective: Unexplained cardiac arrest (UCA) is often the first manifestation of an inherited arrhythmogenic disease. Genetic testing in UCA is challenging due to the complexities of variant interpretation in the absence of supporting cardiac phenotype. We aimed to investigate if a KCNQ1 variant [p.(Pro64_Pro70del)], previously reported as pathogenic, contributes to the long-QT syndrome phenotype, co-segregates with disease or affects KCNQ1 function in vitro.

Methods: DNA was extracted from peripheral blood of a 22-year-old male after resuscitation from UCA. Targeted exome sequencing was performed using the TruSight-One Sequencing Panel (Illumina). Variants in 190 clinically relevant cardiac genes with minor allele frequency < 1% were analyzed according to the guidelines of the American College of Medical Genetics. Functional characterization was performed using site-directed mutagenesis, expression in Xenopus laevis oocytes using the two-electrode voltage-clamp technique.

Results: The 12-lead ECG, transthoracic echocardiography and coronary angiography after resuscitation showed no specific abnormalities. Two variants were identified: c.190_210del in-frame deletion in KCNQ1 (p.Pro64_Pro70del), reported previously as pathogenic and c.2431C > A in PKP2 (p.Arg811Ser), classified as likely benign. Two asymptomatic family members with no evident phenotype hosted the KCNQ1 variant. Functional studies showed that the wild-type and mutant channels have no significant differences in current levels, conductance-voltage relationships, as well as activation and deactivation kinetics, in the absence and presence of the auxiliary subunit KCNE1.

Conclusions: Based on our data and previous reports, available evidence is insufficient to consider the variant KCNQ1:c.190_210del as pathogenic. Our findings call for cautious interpretation of genetic tests in UCA in the absence of a clinical phenotype.

Keywords: Arrhythmia; Genetics; Ion channel; Sudden cardiac death; Ventricular fibrillation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Electrocardiography
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Heart Arrest / blood
  • Heart Arrest / etiology*
  • Heart Arrest / genetics
  • Humans
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel / genetics*
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel / metabolism
  • Long QT Syndrome / blood
  • Long QT Syndrome / complications*
  • Long QT Syndrome / genetics
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Young Adult


  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel
  • KCNQ1 protein, human
  • DNA