Mutations in SCN5A, encoding the cardiac sodium (Na) channel, are linked to a form of the congenital long-QT syndrome (LQT3) that provokes lethal ventricular arrhythmias. These autosomal dominant mutations disrupt Na channel function, inhibiting channel inactivation, thereby causing a sustained ionic current that delays cardiac repolarization. Sodium channel- blocking antiarrhythmics, such as lidocaine, potently inhibit this pathologic Na current (I(Na)) and are being evaluated in patients with LQT3. The mechanism underlying this effect is unknown, although high-affinity 'block' of the open Na channel pore has been proposed. Here we report that a recently identified LQT3 mutation (R1623Q) imparts unusual lidocaine sensitivity to the Na channel that is attributable to its altered functional behavior. Studies of lidocaine on individual R1623Q single-channel openings indicate that the open-time distribution is not changed, indicating the drug does not block the open pore as proposed previously. Rather, the mutant channels have a propensity to inactivate without ever opening ('closed-state inactivation'), and lidocaine augments this gating behavior. An allosteric gating model incorporating closed-state inactivation recapitulates the effects of lidocaine on pathologic I(Na). These findings explain the unusual drug sensitivity of R1623Q and provide a general and unanticipated mechanism for understanding how Na channel-blocking agents may suppress the pathologic, sustained Na current induced by LQT3 mutations.
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