Atrial fibrillation-associated electrical remodelling in human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived atrial cardiomyocytes: a novel pathway for antiarrhythmic therapy development

Cardiovasc Res. 2023 Dec 19;119(16):2623-2637. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvad143.


Aims: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is associated with tachycardia-induced cellular electrophysiology alterations which promote AF chronification and treatment resistance. Development of novel antiarrhythmic therapies is hampered by the absence of scalable experimental human models that reflect AF-associated electrical remodelling. Therefore, we aimed to assess if AF-associated remodelling of cellular electrophysiology can be simulated in human atrial-like cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells in the presence of retinoic acid (iPSC-aCM), and atrial-engineered human myocardium (aEHM) under short term (24 h) and chronic (7 days) tachypacing (TP).

Methods and results: First, 24-h electrical pacing at 3 Hz was used to investigate whether AF-associated remodelling in iPSC-aCM and aEHM would ensue. Compared to controls (24 h, 1 Hz pacing) TP-stimulated iPSC-aCM presented classical hallmarks of AF-associated remodelling: (i) decreased L-type Ca2+ current (ICa,L) and (ii) impaired activation of acetylcholine-activated inward-rectifier K+ current (IK,ACh). This resulted in action potential shortening and an absent response to the M-receptor agonist carbachol in both iPSC-aCM and aEHM subjected to TP. Accordingly, mRNA expression of the channel-subunit Kir3.4 was reduced. Selective IK,ACh blockade with tertiapin reduced basal inward-rectifier K+ current only in iPSC-aCM subjected to TP, thereby unmasking an agonist-independent constitutively active IK,ACh. To allow for long-term TP, we developed iPSC-aCM and aEHM expressing the light-gated ion-channel f-Chrimson. The same hallmarks of AF-associated remodelling were observed after optical-TP. In addition, continuous TP (7 days) led to (i) increased amplitude of inward-rectifier K+ current (IK1), (ii) hyperpolarization of the resting membrane potential, (iii) increased action potential-amplitude and upstroke velocity as well as (iv) reversibly impaired contractile function in aEHM.

Conclusions: Classical hallmarks of AF-associated remodelling were mimicked through TP of iPSC-aCM and aEHM. The use of the ultrafast f-Chrimson depolarizing ion channel allowed us to model the time-dependence of AF-associated remodelling in vitro for the first time. The observation of electrical remodelling with associated reversible contractile dysfunction offers a novel platform for human-centric discovery of antiarrhythmic therapies.

Keywords: Action potential; Atrial fibrillation; Ion channel; Optogenetics; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Fibrillation*
  • Atrial Remodeling*
  • Heart Atria
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Acetylcholine