Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Medicine

Department

Physiology

First Advisor

Dr. Brian P. Delisle

Abstract

Cardiac arrhythmias are caused by a disruption of the normal initiation or propagation of electrical impulses in the heart. Hundreds of mutations in genes encoding ion channels or ion channel regulatory proteins are linked to congenital arrhythmia syndromes that increase the risk for sudden cardiac death. This dissertation focuses on how mutations in a gene (KCNQ1) that encodes a voltage-gated K+ ion channel (Kv7.1) can disrupt proper channel function and lead to abnormal repolarization of atrial and ventricular cardiomyocytes.

In the heart, Kv7.1 coassembles with a regulatory protein to conduct the slowly activating delayed rectifier K+ current (IKs). Loss-of-function KCNQ1 mutations are linked to type 1 long QT syndrome (LQT1), and typically decrease IKs, which can lead to ventricular action potential (AP) prolongation. In patients, LQT1 is often characterized by an abnormally long corrected QT (QTc) interval on an electrocardiogram (ECG), and increases the risk for polymorphic ventricular tachycardias.

KCNQ1 mutations are also linked to atrial fibrillation (AF), but cause a gain-of-function phenotype that increases IKs. Surprisingly, patients diagnosed with both LQT1 and AF are increasingly identified as genotype positive for a KCNQ1 mutation. The first aim of this dissertation was to determine a unique functional phenotype of KCNQ1 mutations linked to both arrhythmia syndromes by functional analyses via the whole-cell patch clamp technique in HEK293 cells.

A proportion of patients with LQT1-linked KCNQ1 mutations do not have abnormal QTc prolongation known as latent LQT1. Interestingly, exercise can reveal abnormal QTc prolongation in these patients. During exercise, beta-adrenergic activation stimulates PKA to phosphorylate Kv7.1, causing an increase in IKs to prevent ventricular AP prolongation. Therefore, the second aim of this dissertation was to determine a molecular mechanism of latent LQT1 through functional analyses in HEK293 cells while incorporating pharmacological and phosphomimetic approaches to study PKA regulation of mutant Kv7.1 channels.

The findings in this dissertation provide new insight into how KCNQ1 mutations disrupt the function of Kv7.1 in a basal condition or during beta-adrenergic activation. Also, this dissertation suggests these approaches will improve patient management by identifying mutation specific risk factors for patients with KCNQ1 mutations.