Key points: Heart failure leads to dramatic electrophysiological remodelling as a result of numerous cellular and tissue-level changes. Important cellular changes include increased sensitivity of ryanodine receptors (RyRs) to Ca2+ release and down-regulation of the inward rectifying K+ current (IK1), both of which contribute to triggered action potentials in isolated cells. We studied the role of increased RyR sensitivity and decreased IK1 in contributing to focal arrhythmia in the intact non-failing rabbit heart using optical mapping and pharmacological manipulation of RyRs and IK1. Neither increased RyR sensitivity or decreased IK1 alone led to significant increases in arrhythmia following local sympathetic stimulation; however, in combination, these two factors led to a significant increase in premature ventricular complexes and focal ventricular tachycardia. These results suggest synergism between increased RyR sensitivity and decreased IK1 in contributing to focal arrhythmia in the intact heart and may provide important insights into novel anti-arrhythmic treatments in heart failure. Heart failure (HF) results in dramatic electrophysiological remodelling, including increased sensitivity of ryanodine receptors (RyRs) and decreased inward rectifying K+ current (IK1), which predisposes HF myocytes to delayed afterdepolarizations and triggered activity. Therefore, we sought to determine the role of increased RyR sensitivity and decreased IK1 in contributing to focal arrhythmia in the intact non-failing heart. Optical mapping of transmembrane potential and intracellular Ca2+ was performed in Langendorff-perfused rabbit hearts (n = 15). Local β-adrenergic receptor stimulation with noradrenaline (norepinephrine; NA, 50 μl, 250 μm) was applied to elicit focal activity (premature ventricular complexes (PVCs) or ventricular tachycardia (VT ≥ 3 beats)). NA was administered under control conditions (CTL) and following pretreatment with 50 μm BaCl2 to reduce IK1, or 200 μm caffeine (Caff) to sensitize RyRs, both alone and in combination. Local NA injection resulted in Ca2+-driven PVCs arising from the injection site in all hearts studied. No increase in NA-mediated PVCs was observed following pretreatment with either BaCl2 or Caff alone (CTL: 1.1 ± 0.7, BaCl2: 1.0 ± 0.7, Caff: 1.3 ± 0.8 PVCs/injection, P not significant). However, pretreatment with the combination of BaCl2 + Caff resulted in a significant increase in PVCs (2.3 ± 2.8 PVCs/injection, P < 0.05 vs. CTL, BaCl2, Caff). Additionally, pretreatment with BaCl2 + Caff led to sustained monomorphic VT arising from the NA application site in all hearts studied, which lasted up to 6 min following a single NA injection. VT was never observed under any other condition suggesting synergism between increased RyR sensitivity and decreased IK1 in contributing to focal activity.
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