Molecular basis of electrical remodeling in atrial fibrillation

David R. Van Wagoner, Jeanne M. Nerbonne

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128 Scopus citations


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, and is often associated with other cardiovascular disorders and diseases. AF can lead to thromboembolism, reduced left ventricular function and stroke, and, importantly, it is independently associated with increased mortality. AF is a progressive disease; numerous lines of evidence suggest that disease progression results from cumulative electrophysiological and structural remodeling of the atria. There is considerable interest in delineating the molecular mechanisms involved in the remodeling that occurs in the atria of patients with AF. Cellular electrophysiological studies have revealed marked reductions in the densities of the L-type voltage-gated Ca2+ current, I(CaL), the transient outward K+ current, I(TO), and the ultrarapid delayed rectifier K+ current. I(Kur), in atrial myocytes from patients in chronic AF. Similar (but not identical) changes in currents are evident in myocytes isolated from a canine model of AF and, in this case, the changes in currents are correlated with reduced expression of the underlying channel forming subunits. In both human and canine AF, the reduction in I(CaL), appears to be sufficient to explain the observed decreases in action potential duration and effective refractory period that are characteristic features of the remodeled atria. In addition, expression of the sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase is reduced, suggesting that calcium cycling is affected in AF. These recent studies suggest that calcium overload and perturbations in calcium handling play prominent roles in AF-induced atrial remodeling. Although considerable progress has been made, further studies focused on defining the detailed structural, cellular and molecular changes that accompany the different stages of AF in humans, as well as in animal models of AF, are clearly warranted. It is anticipated that molecular insights gleaned from these studies will facilitate the development of improved therapeutic approaches to treat AF and to prevent the progression of the arrhythmia. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1101-1117
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


  • AF
  • Animal Models
  • Arrhythmias
  • Electrical Remodeling
  • Structural Remodeling

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