β-Arrestin-Mediated Regulation of the Human Ether-a-go-go-Related Gene (hERG) Potassium Channel
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The human ether-a-go-go-related gene (hERG) encodes the voltage-gated K+ channel, hERG (Kv11.1). This channel passes the rapidly-activating delayed rectifier K+ current (IKr), which is important for cardiac repolarization. A reduction in IKr due to loss-of-function mutations or drug interactions causes long QT syndrome (LQTS), which can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. The density of hERG channels in the plasma membrane is a key determinant of normal physiological function, and is balanced by trafficking to and from the cell surface. Many LQTS-associated hERG mutations result in a trafficking deficiency of otherwise functional channels. Thus, elucidating mechanisms of hERG regulation at the plasma membrane is useful for the prevention and treatment of LQTS. We previously demonstrated that M3 muscarinic receptor activation increases mature hERG expression through a Gq protein-dependent protein kinase C (PKC) pathway. In addition to conventional Gq protein-coupling, M3 receptors recruit β-arrestins upon agonist binding. Traditionally known for their role in receptor desensitization and internalization, β-arrestins also act as adaptor proteins to facilitate G protein-independent signaling. In the present work, I investigated the exclusive effect of β-arrestin signaling on hERG expression by utilizing an arrestin-biased M3 designer receptor (M3D-arr) exclusively activated by clozapine-N-oxide (CNO). By expressing M3D-arr in hERG-HEK cells and treating with CNO under various conditions, I found that M3D-arr activation increased mature hERG expression and current. Within this paradigm, M3D-arr recruited β-arrestin to the plasma membrane, and promoted the PI3K-dependent activation of Akt. I further found that the activated Akt acted through phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate 5-kinase (PIKfyve) and Rab11 to facilitate endosomal recycling of hERG channels to the plasma membrane.