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The majority of Na+ channels in the heart are composed of the tetrodotoxin (TTX)-resistant (KD, 2-6 microm) Nav1.5 isoform; however, recently it has been shown that TTX-sensitive (KD, 1-10 nm) neuronal Na+ channel isoforms (Nav1.1, Nav1.3 and Nav1.6) are also present and functionally important in the myocytes of the ventricles and the sinoatrial (SA) node. In the present study, in mouse SA node pacemaker cells, we investigated Na+ currents under physiological conditions and the expression of cardiac and neuronal Na+ channel isoforms. We identified two distinct Na+ current components, TTX resistant and TTX sensitive. At 37 degrees C, TTX-resistant iNa and TTX-sensitive iNa started to activate at approximately -70 and approximately -60 mV, and peaked at -30 and -10 mV, with a current density of 22 +/- 3 and 18 +/- 1 pA pF(-1), respectively. TTX-sensitive iNa inactivated at more positive potentials as compared to TTX-resistant iNa. Using action potential clamp, TTX-sensitive iNa was observed to activate late during the pacemaker potential. Using immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy, different distributions of the TTX-resistant cardiac isoform, Nav1.5, and the TTX-sensitive neuronal isoform, Nav1.1, were observed: Nav1.5 was absent from the centre of the SA node, but present in the periphery of the SA node, whereas Nav1.1 was present throughout the SA node. Nanomolar concentrations (10 or 100 nm) of TTX, which block TTX-sensitive iNa, slowed pacemaking in both intact SA node preparations and isolated SA node cells without a significant effect on SA node conduction. In contrast, micromolar concentrations (1-30 microm) of TTX, which block TTX-resistant iNa as well as TTX-sensitive iNa, slowed both pacemaking and SA node conduction. It is concluded that two Na+ channel isoforms are important for the functioning of the SA node: neuronal (putative Nav1.1) and cardiac Nav1.5 isoforms are involved in pacemaking, although the cardiac Nav1.5 isoform alone is involved in the propagation of the action potential from the SA node to the surrounding atrial muscle.

Original publication




Journal article


J Physiol

Publication Date





835 - 848


Action Potentials, Animals, Biological Clocks, Cells, Cultured, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Myocytes, Cardiac, Neurons, Sinoatrial Node, Sodium Channels, Tetrodotoxin