Regional increase of extracellular potassium leads to electrical instability and reentry occurrence through the spatial heterogeneity of APD restitution

Veniamin Y Sidorov, Ilija Uzelac, John P Wikswo


The heterogeneities of electrophysiological properties of cardiac tissue are the main factors that control both arrhythmia induction and maintenance. Though the local increase of extracellular potassium ([K+]o) due to coronary occlusion is a well-established metabolic response to acute ischemia, the role of local [K+]o heterogeneity in phase 1a arrhythmias has yet to be determined. In this work we created local [K+]o heterogeneity and investigated its role in fast pacing response and arrhythmia induction. The left marginal vein of a Langendorff-perfused rabbit heart was cannulated and perfused separately with solutions containing 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 mM of K+. The fluorescence dye was utilized to map the voltage distribution. We tested stimulation rates starting from 400 ms down to 120 ms with steps of 5-50 ms. We found that local [K+]o heterogeneity causes action potential (AP) alternans, 2:1 conduction block, and wave breaks. The effect of [K+]o heterogeneity on electrical stability and vulnerability to arrhythmia induction was largest during regional perfusion with 10 mM of K+. We detected three concurrent dynamics: normally propagating activation when excitation waves spread over tissue perfused with normal K+, alternating 2:2 rhythm near the border of [K+]o heterogeneity, and 2:1 aperiodicity when propagation was within the high [K+]o area. [K+]o elevation changed the action potential duration (APD) restitution and shifted the restitution curve towards longer diastolic intervals and shorter APD. We conclude that spatial heterogeneity of the APD restitution, created with regional elevation of [K+]o, can lead to AP instability, 2:1 block, and reentry induction.

  • extracellular potassium
  • restitution heterogeneity
  • regional perfusion
  • optical mapping