PITX2 modulates atrial membrane potential and the antiarrhythmic effects of sodium-channel blockers

Fahima Syeda, Andrew Holmes, Ting Yue Yu, Samantha Tull, Stefan Michael Kuhlmann, Davor Pavlovic, Daniel Betney, Genna Riley, Jan Kucera , Florian Jousset, Joris R de Groot, Stephan Rohr, Nigel Brown, Larissa Fabritz, Paulus Kirchhof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
177 Downloads (Pure)


Background Antiarrhythmic drugs are widely used to treat patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), but the mechanisms conveying their variable effectiveness are not known. Recent data suggested that paired like homeodomain-2 transcription factor (PITX2) might play an important role in regulating gene expression and electrical function of the adult left atrium (LA).

Objectives After determining LA PITX2 expression in AF patients requiring rhythm control therapy, the authors assessed the effects of Pitx2c on LA electrophysiology and the effect of antiarrhythmic drugs.

Methods LA PITX2 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) levels were measured in 95 patients undergoing thoracoscopic AF ablation. The effects of flecainide, a sodium (Na+)-channel blocker, and d,l-sotalol, a potassium channel blocker, were studied in littermate mice with normal and reduced Pitx2c mRNA by electrophysiological study, optical mapping, and patch clamp studies. PITX2-dependent mechanisms of antiarrhythmic drug action were studied in human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells expressing human Na channels and by modeling human action potentials.

Results Flecainide 1 μmol/l was more effective in suppressing atrial arrhythmias in atria with reduced Pitx2c mRNA levels (Pitx2c+/–). Resting membrane potential was more depolarized in Pitx2c+/– atria, and TWIK-related acid-sensitive K+ channel 2 (TASK-2) gene and protein expression were decreased. This resulted in enhanced post-repolarization refractoriness and more effective Na-channel inhibition. Defined holding potentials eliminated differences in flecainide’s effects between wild-type and Pitx2c+/– atrial cardiomyocytes. More positive holding potentials replicated the increased effectiveness of flecainide in blocking human Nav1.5 channels in HEK293 cells. Computer modeling reproduced an enhanced effectiveness of Na-channel block when resting membrane potential was slightly depolarized.

Conclusions PITX2 mRNA modulates atrial resting membrane potential and thereby alters the effectiveness of Na-channel blockers. PITX2 and ion channels regulating the resting membrane potential may provide novel targets for antiarrhythmic drug development and companion therapeutics in AF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1881-1894
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number17
Early online date17 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2016


  • antiarrhythmic drugs
  • atrial fibrillation
  • drug targets
  • electrophysiology
  • personalized medicine
  • rhythm control


Dive into the research topics of 'PITX2 modulates atrial membrane potential and the antiarrhythmic effects of sodium-channel blockers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this