The influence of hERG1a and hERG1b isoforms on drug safety screening in iPSC-CMs

Birgit Goversen, Malin KB Jonsson, Nikki HL van den Heuvel, Rianne Rijken, Marc A. Vos, Toon AB van Veen, Teun P. de Boer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The human Ether-à-go-go Related Gene (hERG) encodes the pore forming subunit of the channel that conducts the rapid delayed rectifier potassium current I Kr . I Kr drives repolarization in the heart and when I Kr is dysfunctional, cardiac repolarization delays, the QT interval on the electrocardiogram (ECG) prolongs and the risk of developing lethal arrhythmias such as Torsade de Pointes (TdP) increases. TdP risk is incorporated in drug safety screening for cardiotoxicity where hERG is the main target since the I Kr channels appear highly sensitive to blockage. hERG block is also included as an important read-out in the Comprehensive in Vitro Proarrhythmia Assay (CiPA) initiative which aims to combine in vitro and in silico experiments on induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) to screen for cardiotoxicity. However, the hERG channel has some unique features to consider for drug safety screening, which we will discuss in this study. The hERG channel consists of different isoforms, hERG1a and hERG1b, which individually influence the kinetics of the channel and the drug response in the human heart and in iPSC-CMs. hERG1b is often underappreciated in iPSC-CM studies, drug screening assays and in silico models, and the fact that its contribution might substantially differ between iPSC-CM and healthy but also diseased human heart, adds to this problem. In this study we show that the activation kinetics in iPSC-CMs resemble hERG1b kinetics using Cs + as a charge carrier. Not including hERG1b in drug safety testing might underestimate the actual role of hERG1b in repolarization and drug response, and might lead to inappropriate conclusions. We stress to focus more on including hERG1b in drug safety testing concerning I Kr .

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-98
Number of pages13
JournalProgress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • hERG
  • iPSC-CMs
  • Isoforms
  • Safety pharmacology


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