Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a catastrophic event that accounts for up to 450,000 deaths each year in the US. Among patients at high risk for SCD are those with inherited cardiac arrhythmias. Long QT syndrome (LQTS) is one example of a group of inherited cardiac arrhythmias that produces defects in cardiac membrane currents. As a direct consequence, LQTS has been associated with prolongation of the QT interval on the ECG, ventricular arrhythmias, and an increased incidence of SCD. In LQTS2 well over two hundred missense mutations have been identified in the KCNH2 gene encoding hERG with the overwhelming majority thought to be characterized by protein processing and trafficking defects leading to a drastic reduction in potassium currents. However, as commonly observed in many autosomal dominant cardiac channelopathies the pattern of inheritance and clinical phenotypes of these patients are complex and often display incomplete penetrance, where disease-causing mutation carriers are asymptomatic. The causes for this variable clinical expressivity are not well understood but in the present research proposal, we will investigate this question by testing the hypothesis that modifier genes contribute to the variable clinical expressivity. Our multidisciplinary group at MetroHealth and Case Western Reserve University has studied clinically as well as in vitro a large 'Cleveland'LQT2 family carrying the hERG mutation R752W. Out of the 101 family members studied, 26 individuals carried the hERG R752W mutation. However, symptomatic LQTS was present in only 5 of the genetically affected family members thus illustrating incomplete penetrance of the disease. We hypothesize that the presence of disease modifying genes can explain the genotype-phenotype discordance observed in this LQT2 family. In this proposal, we will elucidate the mechanisms of incomplete penetrance in this LQT2 family using exome sequencing and cardiomyocytes differentiated from patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). We hypothesize that patient-derived iPS differentiated cardiomyocytes (iPS-CM) faithfully recapitulate the arrythmogenic pathology and that heretofore unknown candidate genes revealed by exome sequencing account for variable phenotypic penetrance.
The aims of this proposal are: 1. Identify candidate modifier genes responsible for incomplete penetrance in a LQT2 family. 2. Elucidate electrophysiological variability of human cardiomyocytes derived from LQT2 family members. 3. Determine the phenotype of candidate disease modifying gene variants. We will perform these aims by studying closely related LQT2 hERG R752W carrier pairs (i.e. father/son and sib pair) that display discordant clinical phenotype. We believe that the current proposal will offer a fundamental, mechanistic explanation by which genotype-phenotype discordance can arise in a large LQT2 family. This holds potentially significant ramifications for personalized clinical management and will offer novel targets for personalized pharmacologic intervention aimed at the modulation of dysfunctional ion channels in the heart.

Public Health Relevance

Long QT syndrome is an inherited disease which increases the risk of sudden cardiac death. This work will provide important insights in the variable penetrance of inherited arrhythmic diseases which is crucial in helping cardiologists select patients or their family members who will more likely benefit from an expensive and risky therapy, the implanted defibrillator.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Wang, Lan-Hsiang
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Case Western Reserve University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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