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Utility of Zebrafish Models of Acquired and Inherited Long QT Syndrome

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Long-QT Syndrome (LQTS) is a cardiac electrical disorder, distinguished by irregular heart rates and sudden death. Accounting for ∼40% of cases, LQTS Type 2 (LQTS2), is caused by defects in the Kv11.1 (hERG) potassium channel that is critical for cardiac repolarization. Drug block of hERG channels or dysfunctional channel variants can result in acquired or inherited LQTS2, respectively, which are typified by delayed repolarization and predisposition to lethal arrhythmia. As such, there is significant interest in clear identification of drugs and channel variants that produce clinically meaningful perturbation of hERG channel function. While toxicological screening of hERG channels, and phenotypic assessment of inherited channel variants in heterologous systems is now commonplace, affordable, efficient, and insightful whole organ models for acquired and inherited LQTS2 are lacking. Recent work has shown that zebrafish provide a viable in vivo or whole organ model of cardiac electrophysiology. Characterization of cardiac ion currents and toxicological screening work in intact embryos, as well as adult whole hearts, has demonstrated the utility of the zebrafish model to contribute to the development of therapeutics that lack hERG-blocking off-target effects. Moreover, forward and reverse genetic approaches show zebrafish as a tractable model in which LQTS2 can be studied. With the development of new tools and technologies, zebrafish lines carrying precise channel variants associated with LQTS2 have recently begun to be generated and explored. In this review, we discuss the present knowledge and questions raised related to the use of zebrafish as models of acquired and inherited LQTS2. We focus discussion, in particular, on developments in precise gene-editing approaches in zebrafish to create whole heart inherited LQTS2 models and evidence that zebrafish hearts can be used to study arrhythmogenicity and to identify potential anti-arrhythmic compounds.
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