Modeling effects of voltage dependent properties of the cardiac muscarinic receptor on human sinus node function

by Robin Moss, Frank B. Sachse, Eloy G. Moreno-Galindo, Ricardo A. Navarro-Polanco, Martin Tristani-Firouzi, Gunnar Seemann

The cardiac muscarinic receptor (M2R) regulates heart rate, in part, by modulating the acetylcholine (ACh) activated K+ current IK,ACh through dissociation of G-proteins, that in turn activate KACh channels. Recently, M2Rs were noted to exhibit intrinsic voltage sensitivity, i.e. their affinity for ligands varies in a voltage dependent manner. The voltage sensitivity of M2R implies that the affinity for ACh (and thus the ACh effect) varies throughout the time course of a cardiac electrical cycle. The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of M2R voltage sensitivity to the rate and shape of the human sinus node action potentials in physiological and pathophysiological conditions. We developed a Markovian model of the IK,ACh modulation by voltage and integrated it into a computational model of human sinus node. We performed simulations with the integrated model varying ACh concentration and voltage sensitivity. Low ACh exerted a larger effect on IK,ACh at hyperpolarized versus depolarized membrane voltages. This led to a slowing of the pacemaker rate due to an attenuated slope of phase 4 depolarization with only marginal effect on action potential duration and amplitude. We also simulated the theoretical effects of genetic variants that alter the voltage sensitivity of M2R. Modest negative shifts in voltage sensitivity, predicted to increase the affinity of the receptor for ACh, slowed the rate of phase 4 depolarization and slowed heart rate, while modest positive shifts increased heart rate. These simulations support our hypothesis that altered M2R voltage sensitivity contributes to disease and provide a novel mechanistic foundation to study clinical disorders such as atrial fibrillation and inappropriate sinus tachycardia.

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