University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Genotype-Phenotype Relationships in Long QT Syndrome: Role of Mental Stress, Adrenergic Activity and a Common KCNH2 Polymorphism
Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
Long QT syndrome is a congenital or acquired arrhythmic disorder which manifests as a prolonged QT-interval on the electrocardiogram and as a tendency to develop ventricular arrhythmias which can lead to sudden death. Arrhythmias often occur during intense exercise and/or emotional stress. The two most common subtypes of LQTS are LQT1, caused by mutations in the KCNQ1 gene and LQT2, caused by mutations in the KCNH2 gene. LQT1 and LQT2 patients exhibit arrhythmias in different types of situations: in LQT1 the trigger is usually vigorous exercise whereas in LQT2 arrhythmia results from the patient being startled from rest.
It is not clear why trigger factors and clinical outcome differ from each other in the different LQTS subtypes. It is possible that stress hormones such as catecholamines may show different effects depending on the exact nature of the genetic defect, or sensitivity to catecholamines varies from subject to subject. Furthermore, it is possible that subtle genetic variants of putative modifier genes, including those coding for ion channels and hormone receptors, play a role as determinants of individual sensitivity to life-threatening arrhythmias. The present study was designed to identify some of these risk modifiers.
It was found that LQT1 and LQT2 patients show an abnormal QT-adaptation to both mental and physical stress. Furthermore, as studied with epinephrine infusion experiments while the heart was paced and action potentials were measured from the right ventricular septum, LQT1 patients showed repolarization abnormalities which were related to their propensity to develop arrhythmia during intense, prolonged sympathetic tone, such as exercise. In LQT2 patients, this repolarization abnormality was noted already at rest corresponding to their arrhythmic episodes as a result of intense, sudden surges in adrenergic tone, such as fright or rage. A common KCNH2 polymorphism was found to affect KCNH2 channel function as demonstrated by in vitro experiments utilizing mammalian cells transfected with the KCNH2 potassium channel as well as QT-dynamics in vivo. Finally, the present study identified a common β-1-adrenergic receptor genotype that is related a shorter QT-interval in LQT1 patients. Also, it was discovered that compound homozygosity for two common β-adrenergic polymorphisms was related to the occurrence of symptoms in the LQT1 type of long QT syndrome.
The studies demonstrate important genotype-phenotype differences between different LQTS subtypes and suggest that common modifier gene polymorphisms may affect cardiac repolarization in LQTS. It will be important in the future to prospectively study whether variant gene polymorphisms will assist in clinical risk profiling of LQTS patients.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 30.08.2006