Selectivity problems with drugs acting on cardiac Na+ and Ca2+ channels

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With the increase of our knowledge on cardioactive agents it comes more and more clear that practically none of the currently used compounds shows absolute selectivity to one or anotherion channel type. This is particularly true for Na+ and Ca2+ channel modulators, which are widely applied in the clinical practice and biomedical research. The best example might be probably the marine guanidine poison tetrodotoxin, which has long been considered as a selective Na+ channel blocker, while recently it turned out to effectively inhibit cardiac Ca2+ currents as well. In the present study the cross actions observed between the effects of various blockers of Na+ channels (such as toxin inhibitors, class I antiarrhythmics and local anesthetics) and Ca2+ channels (like phenylalkylamines, dihydropyridine compounds, diltiazem and mibefradil) are overviewed in light of the known details of the respective channel structures. Similarly, activators of Na+ channels, including veratridine and batrachotoxin, are also compared. The binding of tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin to Cav1.2 and Nav1.5 channel proteins is presented by construction of theoretical models to reveal common structures in their pore forming regions to explain cross reactions. Since these four domain channels can be traced back to a common ancestor, a close similarity in their structure can well be demonstrated. Thus, the poor selectivity of agents acting on cardiac Na+ and Ca 2+ channels is a consequence of evolution. As a conclusion, since the limited selectivity is an intrinsic property of drug receptors, it has to be taken into account when designing new cardioactive compounds for either medical therapy or experimental research in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2552-2571
Number of pages20
JournalCurrent medicinal chemistry
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2013



  • Ca channels
  • Cardioactive drugs
  • Channel structures
  • Ion selectivity
  • Na channels
  • Tetrodotoxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry

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