Methylmercury Poisoning Induces Cardiac Electrical Remodeling and Increases Arrhythmia Susceptibility and Mortality

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 May 15;21(10):3490. doi: 10.3390/ijms21103490.


This study aims to investigate the cardiac electrical remodeling associated with intoxication by methylmercury (MeHg). We evaluated the chronic effects of MeHg on in vivo electrocardiograms and on ex vivo action potentials and depolarizing (ICa-L) and repolarizing (Ito) currents. The acute effect of MeHg was evaluated on HEK293 cells expressing human ERG, Kv4.3 and KCNQ1/KCNE1 channels. Chronic MeHg treatment increased QTc and Tpeak-Tend interval duration, prolonged action potential duration and decreased amplitude of Ito and ICa-L. In addition, heterologously expressed IhKv4.3, IhERG or IhKCNQ1/KCNE1 decreased after acute exposure to MeHg at subnanomolar range. The introduction of the in vitro effects of MeHg in a computer model of human ventricular action potentials triggered early afterdepolarizations and arrhythmia. In conclusion, cardiac electrical remodeling induced by MeHg poisoning is related to the reduction of Ito and ICa-L. The acute effect of MeHg on hKv4.3; hERG and hKCNQ1/KCNE1 currents and their transposition to in silico models show an association between MeHg intoxication and acquired Long QT Syndrome in humans. MeHg can exert its high toxicity either after chronic or acute exposure to concentrations as low as picomolar.

Keywords: arrhythmia; cardiac; electrical remodeling; ion current; mercury.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / mortality*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology*
  • Atrial Remodeling / physiology*
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Heart Ventricles / pathology
  • Heart Ventricles / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylmercury Compounds / poisoning*
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Weight Loss


  • Calcium Channels
  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Potassium Channels