Regulation of cardiac ion channels by transcription factors: Looking for new opportunities of druggable targets for the treatment of arrhythmias

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Cardiac electrical activity is governed by different ion channels that generate action potentials. Acquired or inherited abnormalities in the expression and/or function of ion channels usually result in electrophysiological changes that can cause cardiac arrhythmias. Transcription factors (TFs) control gene transcription by binding to specific DNA sequences adjacent to target genes. Linkage analysis, candidate-gene screening within families, and genome-wide association studies have linked rare and common genetic variants in the genes encoding TFs with genetically-determined cardiac arrhythmias. Besides its critical role in cardiac development, recent data demonstrated that they control cardiac electrical activity through the direct regulation of the expression and function of cardiac ion channels in adult hearts. This narrative review summarizes some studies showing functional data on regulation of the main human atrial and ventricular Na+, Ca2+, and K+ channels by cardiac TFs such as Pitx2c, Tbx20, Tbx5, Zfhx3, among others. The results have improved our understanding of the mechanisms regulating cardiac electrical activity and may open new avenues for therapeutic interventions in cardiac acquired or inherited arrhythmias through the identification of TFs as potential drug targets. Even though TFs have for a long time been considered as ‘undruggable’ targets, advances in structural biology have led to the identification of unique pockets in TFs amenable to be targeted with small-molecule drugs or peptides that are emerging as novel therapeutic drugs.
CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2022)
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