Mechanism underlying impaired cardiac pacemaking rhythm during ischemia: A simulation study

Xiangyun Bai, Kuanquan Wang, Yongfeng Yuan, Qince Li, Halina Dobrzynski, Mark R Boyett, Jules C Hancox, Henggui Zhang

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

8 Citations (Scopus)
298 Downloads (Pure)


Ischemia in the heart impairs function of the cardiac pacemaker, the sinoatrial node (SAN). However, the ionic mechanisms underlying the ischemia-induced dysfunction of the SAN remain elusive. In order to investigate the ionic mechanisms by which ischemia causes SAN dysfunction, action potential models of rabbit SAN and atrial cells were modified to incorporate extant experimental data of ischemia-induced changes to membrane ion channels and intracellular ion homeostasis. The cell models were incorporated into an anatomically detailed 2D model of the intact SAN-atrium. Using the multi-scale models, the functional impact of ischemia-induced electrical alterations on cardiac pacemaking action potentials (APs) and their conduction was investigated. The effects of vagal tone activity on the regulation of cardiac pacemaker activity in control and ischemic conditions were also investigated. The simulation results showed that at the cellular level ischemia slowed the SAN pacemaking rate, which was mainly attributable to the altered Na+-Ca2+ exchange current and the ATP-sensitive potassium current. In the 2D SAN-atrium tissue model, ischemia slowed down both the pacemaking rate and the conduction velocity of APs into the surrounding atrial tissue. Simulated vagal nerve activity, including the actions of acetylcholine in the model, amplified the effects of ischemia, leading to possible SAN arrest and/or conduction exit block, which are major features of the sick sinus syndrome. In conclusion, this study provides novel insights into understanding the mechanisms by which ischemia alters SAN function, identifying specific conductances as contributors to bradycardia and conduction block.

Original languageEnglish
Article number093934
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Early online date20 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • Action potential
  • Biological physics
  • Computer simulation
  • Multiscale methods
  • Muscles


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