Recent advances in understanding sex differences in cardiac repolarization

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A number of gender differences exist in the human electrocardiogram (ECG): the P-wave and P-R intervals are slightly longer in men than in women, whilst women have higher resting heart rates than do men, but a longer rate-corrected QT (QTC) interval. Women with the LQT1 and LQT2 variants of congenital long-QT syndrome (LQTS) are at greater risk of adverse cardiac events. Similarly, many drugs associated with acquired LQTS have a greater risk of inducing torsades de pointes (TdP) arrhythmia in women than in men. There are also male:female differences in Brugada syndrome, early repolarisation syndrome and sudden cardiac death. The differences in the ECG between men and women, and in particular those relating to the QT interval, have been explored experimentally and provide evidence of differences in the processes underlying ventricular repolarization. The data available from rabbit, canine, rat, mouse and guinea pig models are reviewed and highlight involvement of male:female differences in Ca and K currents, although the possible involvement of rapid and persistent Na current and Na–Ca exchange currents cannot yet be excluded. The mechanisms underlying observed differences remain to be elucidated fully, but are likely to involve the influence of gonadal steroids. With respect to the QT interval and risk of TdP, a range of evidence implicates a protective role of testosterone in male hearts, possibly by both genomic and non-genomic pathways. Evidence regarding oestrogen and progesterone is less unequivocal, although the interplay between these two hormones may influence both repolarization and pro-arrhythmic risk.
Translated title of the contributionRecent advances in understanding sex differences in cardiac repolarization
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265 - 319
Number of pages55
JournalProgress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Volume94 (3)
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Elsevier


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