In silico prediction of sex-based differences in human susceptibility to cardiac ventricular tachyarrhythmias

Pei Chi Yang, Colleen E Clancy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Sex-based differences in human susceptibility to cardiac ventricular tachyarrhythmias likely result from the emergent effects of multiple intersecting processes that fundamentally differ in male and female hearts. Included are measured differences in the genes encoding key cardiac ion channels and effects of sex steroid hormones to acutely modify electrical activity. At the genome-scale, human females have recently been shown to have lower expression of genes encoding key cardiac repolarizing potassium currents and connexin43, the primary ventricular gap-junction subunit. Human males and females also have distinct sex steroid hormones. Here, we developed mathematical models for male and female ventricular human heart cells by incorporating experimentally determined genomic differences and effects of sex steroid hormones into the O'Hara-Rudy model.These "male" and "female" model cells and tissues then were used to predict how various sex-based differences underlie arrhythmia risk. Genomic-based differences in ion channel expression were alone sufficient to determine longer female cardiac action potential durations (APD) in both epicardial and endocardial cells compared to males. Subsequent addition of sex steroid hormones exacerbated these differences, as testosterone further shortened APDs, while estrogen and progesterone application resulted in disparate effects on APDs. Our results indicate that incorporation of experimentally determined genomic differences from human hearts in conjunction with sex steroid hormones are consistent with clinically observed differences in QT interval, T -wave shape and morphology, and critically, in the higher vulnerability of adult human females to Torsades de Pointes type arrhythmias. The model suggests that female susceptibility to alternans stems from longer female action potentials, while reentrant arrhythmia derives largely from sex-based differences in conduction play an important role in arrhythmia vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 360
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Volume3 SEP
StatePublished - 2012


  • Arrhythmia
  • Female
  • LQT
  • Sex hormones
  • Sex-differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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