Open-state structure and pore gating mechanism of the cardiac sodium channel

Cell. 2021 Sep 4;S0092-8674(21)00995-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.08.021. Online ahead of print.


The heartbeat is initiated by voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.5, which opens rapidly and triggers the cardiac action potential; however, the structural basis for pore opening remains unknown. Here, we blocked fast inactivation with a mutation and captured the elusive open-state structure. The fast inactivation gate moves away from its receptor, allowing asymmetric opening of pore-lining S6 segments, which bend and rotate at their intracellular ends to dilate the activation gate to ∼10 Å diameter. Molecular dynamics analyses predict physiological rates of Na+ conductance. The open-state pore blocker propafenone binds in a high-affinity pose, and drug-access pathways are revealed through the open activation gate and fenestrations. Comparison with mutagenesis results provides a structural map of arrhythmia mutations that target the activation and fast inactivation gates. These results give atomic-level insights into molecular events that underlie generation of the action potential, open-state drug block, and fast inactivation of cardiac sodium channels, which initiate the heartbeat.

Keywords: antiarrhythmic drug; arrhythmia mutation; cardiac sodium channel; cryo-EM structure; fast inactivation; open state.