Phenanthrene impacts zebrafish cardiomyocyte excitability by inhibiting IKr and shortening action potential duration

Shiva N Kompella, Fabien Brette, Jules C Hancox, Holly A Shiels

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

16 Citations (Scopus)


Air pollution is an environmental hazard that is associated with cardiovascular dysfunction. Phenanthrene is a three-ringed polyaromatic hydrocarbon that is a significant component of air pollution and crude oil and has been shown to cause cardiac dysfunction in marine fishes. We investigated the cardiotoxic effects of phenanthrene in zebrafish (Danio rerio), an animal model relevant to human cardiac electrophysiology, using whole-cell patch-clamp of ventricular cardiomyocytes. First, we show that phenanthrene significantly shortened action potential duration without altering resting membrane potential or upstroke velocity (dV/dt). L-type Ca2+ current was significantly decreased by phenanthrene, consistent with the decrease in action potential duration. Phenanthrene blocked the hERG orthologue (zfERG) native current, IKr, and accelerated IKr deactivation kinetics in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, we show that phenanthrene significantly inhibits the protective IKr current envelope, elicited by a paired ventricular AP-like command waveform protocol. Phenanthrene had no effect on other IK. These findings demonstrate that exposure to phenanthrene shortens action potential duration, which may reduce refractoriness and increase susceptibility to certain arrhythmia triggers, such as premature ventricular contractions. These data also reveal a previously unrecognized mechanism of polyaromatic hydrocarbon cardiotoxicity on zfERG by accelerating deactivation and decreasing IKr protective current.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere202012733
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of general physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


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