Electrophysiological characterization of the modified hERGT potassium channel used to obtain the first cryo‐EM hERG structure

Yihong Zhang, Christopher E Dempsey, Jules C Hancox*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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The voltage‐gated hERG (human‐Ether‐à‐go‐go Related Gene) K+ channel plays a fundamental role in cardiac action potential repolarization. Loss‐of‐function mutations or pharmacological inhibition of hERG leads to long QT syndrome, whilst gain‐of‐function mutations lead to short QT syndrome. A recent open channel cryo‐EM structure of hERG represents a significant advance in the ability to interrogate hERG channel structure‐function. In order to suppress protein aggregation, a truncated channel construct of hERG (hERGT) was used to obtain this structure. In hERGT cytoplasmic domain residues 141 to 350 and 871 to 1,005 were removed from the full‐length channel protein. There are limited data on the electrophysiological properties of hERGT channels. Therefore, this study was undertaken to determine how hERGT influences channel function at physiological temperature. Whole‐cell measurements of hERG current (IhERG) were made at 37°C from HEK 293 cells expressing wild‐type (WT) or hERGT channels. With a standard +20 mV activating command protocol, neither end‐pulse nor tail IhERG density significantly differed between WT and hERGT. However, the IhERG deactivation rate was significantly slower for hERGT. Half‐maximal activation voltage (V0.5) was positively shifted for hERGT by ~+8 mV (p < .05 versus WT), without significant change to the activation relation slope factor. Neither the voltage dependence of inactivation, nor time course of development of inactivation significantly differed between WT and hERGT, but recovery of IhERG from inactivation was accelerated for hERGT (p < .05 versus WT). Steady‐state “window” current was positively shifted for hERGT with a modest increase in the window current peak. Under action potential (AP) voltage clamp, hERGT IhERG showed modestly increased current throughout the AP plateau phase with a significant increase in current integral during the AP. The observed consequences for hERGT IhERG of deletion of the two cytoplasmic regions may reflect changes to electrostatic interactions influencing the voltage sensor domain.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14568
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number20
Early online date22 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Oct 2020


  • hERG
  • IKr
  • KCNH2
  • Kv11.1
  • Long QT Syndrome
  • LQT2
  • potassium channel
  • rapid delayed rectifier


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