Potassium channel down-regulation in heart failure

Cardiovasc Res. 1998 Feb;37(2):324-34. doi: 10.1016/s0008-6363(97)00274-5.


Prolongation of action potential duration is the most consistent electrophysiological abnormality in myocardium and myocytes from hypertrophied and failing hearts. Measurements of currents in myocytes from hypertrophied and failing hearts indicate that, in most cases, this is due to a decrease in outward potassium currents. If present, a calcium-independent transient outward current is usually substantially reduced, but delayed rectifier and inward rectifier currents have also been found to be diminished. There is increasing evidence that potassium current down-regulation contributes significantly to the enhanced lability of the repolarization process in heart failure, predisposing to early after-depolarizations, dispersion of repolarization and ventricular arrhythmias. The reduction of outward potassium currents may also be involved in the enhanced sensitivity of failing myocardium to triggering factors like hypokalemia, ischemia, and antiarrhythmic agents with Class III effects. A thorough understanding of the mechanisms of cardiac excitability and arrhythmogenesis at the cellular and molecular level under normal and pathological conditions will be essential for the development of new pharmacological strategies to prevent sudden cardiac death in heart failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Cardiomegaly / metabolism
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Heart Failure / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism*


  • Potassium Channels