Multiple Mechanisms in the Long-QT Syndrome
Abstract The congenital long-QT syndrome (LQTS) is characterized by prolonged QT intervals, QT interval lability, and polymorphic ventricular tachycardia. The manifestations of the disease vary, with a high incidence of sudden death in some affected families but not in others. Mutations causing LQTS have been identified in three genes, each encoding a cardiac ion channel. In families linked to chromosome 3, mutations in SCN5A, the gene encoding the human cardiac sodium channel, cause the disease. Mutations in the human ether-a`-go-go–related gene (HERG), which encodes a delayed-rectifier potassium channel, cause the disease in families linked to chromosome 7. Among affected individuals in families linked to chromosome 11, mutations have been identified in KVLQT1, a newly cloned gene that appears to encode a potassium channel. The SCN5A mutations result in defective sodium channel inactivation, whereas HERG mutations result in decreased outward potassium current. Either mutation would decrease net outward current during repolarization and would thereby account for prolonged QT intervals on the surface ECG. Preliminary data suggest that the clinical presentation in LQTS may be determined in part by the gene affected and possibly even by the specific mutation. The identification of disease genes in LQTS not only represents a major milestone in understanding the mechanisms underlying this disease but also presents new opportunities for combined research at the molecular, cellular, and clinical levels to understand issues such as adrenergic regulation of cardiac electrophysiology and mechanisms of susceptibility to arrhythmias in LQTS and other settings.