Molecular basis of hERG potassium channel blockade by the class Ic antiarrhythmic flecainide

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The class Ic antiarrhythmic drug flecainide inhibits KCNH2-encoded “hERG” potassium channels at clinically relevant concentrations. The aim of this study was to elucidate the underlying molecular basis of this action. Patch clamp recordings of hERG current (IhERG) were made from hERG expressing cells at 37 °C. Wild-type (WT) IhERG was inhibited with an IC50 of 1.49 μM and this was not significantly altered by reversing the direction of K+ flux or raising external [K+]. The use of charged and uncharged flecainide analogues showed that the charged form of the drug accesses the channel from the cell interior to produce block. Promotion of WT IhERG inactivation slowed recovery from inhibition, whilst the N588K and S631A attenuated-inactivation mutants exhibited IC50 values 4–5 fold that of WT IhERG. The use of pore-helix/selectivity filter (T623A, S624A V625A) and S6 helix (G648A, Y652A, F656A) mutations showed < 10-fold shifts in IC50 for all but V625A and F656A, which respectively exhibited IC50s 27-fold and 142-fold their WT controls. Docking simulations using a MthK-based homology model suggested an allosteric effect of V625A, since in low energy conformations flecainide lay too low in the pore to interact directly with that residue. On the other hand, the molecule could readily form π–π stacking interactions with aromatic residues and particularly with F656. We conclude that flecainide accesses the hERG channel from the cell interior on channel gating, binding low in the inner cavity, with the S6 F656 residue acting as a principal binding determinant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-53
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Early online date6 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


  • Flecainide
  • hERG
  • QT interval
  • Repolarization
  • Torsades de Pointes


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