Potent hERG channel inhibition by sarizotan, an investigative treatment for Rett Syndrome

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2019 Oct:135:22-30. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2019.07.012. Epub 2019 Jul 27.


Rett Syndrome (RTT) is an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder associated with respiratory abnormalities and, in up to ~40% of patients, with prolongation of the cardiac QTc interval. QTc prolongation calls for cautious use of drugs with a propensity to inhibit hERG channels. The STARS trial has been undertaken to investigate the efficacy of sarizotan, a 5-HT1A receptor agonist, at correcting RTT respiratory abnormalities. The present study investigated whether sarizotan inhibits hERG potassium channels and prolongs ventricular repolarization. Whole-cell patch-clamp measurements were made at 37 °C from hERG-expressing HEK293 cells. Docking analysis was conducted using a recent cryo-EM structure of hERG. Sarizotan was a potent inhibitor of hERG current (IhERG; IC50 of 183 nM) and of native ventricular IKr from guinea-pig ventricular myocytes. 100 nM and 1 μM sarizotan prolonged ventricular action potential (AP) duration (APD90) by 14.1 ± 3.3% (n = 6) and 29.8 ± 3.1% (n = 5) respectively and promoted AP triangulation. High affinity IhERG inhibition by sarizotan was contingent upon channel gating and intact inactivation. Mutagenesis experiments and docking analysis implicated F557, S624 and Y652 residues in sarizotan binding, with weaker contribution from F656. In conclusion, sarizotan inhibits IKr/IhERG, accessing key binding residues on channel gating. This action and consequent ventricular AP prolongation occur at concentrations relevant to those proposed to treat breathing dysrhythmia in RTT. Sarizotan should only be used in RTT patients with careful evaluation of risk factors for QTc prolongation.

Keywords: KCNH2; Long QT syndrome; Rett Syndrome; Sarizotan; hERG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Guinea Pigs
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Heart Ventricles / metabolism
  • Heart Ventricles / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Organic Chemicals / pharmacology
  • Respiratory System / drug effects
  • Respiratory System / pathology
  • Rett Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Rett Syndrome / genetics
  • Rett Syndrome / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG / genetics


  • ERG protein, human
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG
  • sarizotan