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Mutations in the human ether-a-go-go-related gene (hERG) cause long-QT syndrome type 2 (LQT2). We previously described a homozygous LQT2 nonsense mutation Q1070X in which the mutant mRNA is degraded by nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) leading to a severe clinical phenotype. The degradation of the Q1070X transcript precludes the expression of truncated but functional mutant channels. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that inhibition of NMD can restore functional expression of LQT2 mutations that are targeted by NMD. We showed that inhibition of NMD by RNA interference-mediated knockdown of UPF1 increased Q1070X mutant channel protein expression and hERG current amplitude. More importantly, we found that specific inhibition of downstream intron splicing by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides prevented NMD of the Q1070X mutant mRNA and restored the expression of functional Q1070X mutant channels. The restoration of functional expression by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides was also observed in LQT2 frameshift mutations. Our findings suggest that inhibition of NMD by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides may be a potential therapeutic approach for some LQT2 patients carrying nonsense and frameshift mutations.


Originally published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, Volume 50, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 223-229.