Rapid Characterization of hERG Channel Kinetics I: Using an Automated High-Throughput System

Published in Biophysical Journal, 2019

Recommended citation: Lei, C.L., Clerx, M., Gavaghan, D.J., et al. (2019). "Rapid Characterization of hERG Channel Kinetics I: Using an Automated High-Throughput System." Biophysical Journal, 117, 12, p.2438-2454. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2019.07.029

Predicting how pharmaceuticals may affect heart rhythm is a crucial step in drug development and requires a deep understanding of a compound’s action on ion channels. In vitro hERG channel current recordings are an important step in evaluating the proarrhythmic potential of small molecules and are now routinely performed using automated high-throughput patch-clamp platforms. These machines can execute traditional voltage-clamp protocols aimed at specific gating processes, but the array of protocols needed to fully characterize a current is typically too long to be applied in a single cell. Shorter high-information protocols have recently been introduced that have this capability, but they are not typically compatible with high-throughput platforms. We present a new 15 second protocol to characterize hERG (Kv11.1) kinetics, suitable for both manual and high-throughput systems. We demonstrate its use on the Nanion SyncroPatch 384PE, a 384-well automated patch-clamp platform, by applying it to Chinese hamster ovary cells stably expressing hERG1a. From these recordings, we construct 124 cell-specific variants/parameterizations of a hERG model at 25°C. A further eight independent protocols are run in each cell and are used to validate the model predictions. We then combine the experimental recordings using a hierarchical Bayesian model, which we use to quantify the uncertainty in the model parameters, and their variability from cell-to-cell; we use this model to suggest reasons for the variability. This study demonstrates a robust method to measure and quantify uncertainty and shows that it is possible and practical to use high-throughput systems to capture full hERG channel kinetics quantitatively and rapidly.

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