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Torsadogenic Cardiotoxicity of Antipsychotic Drugs: a Structural Feature, Potentially Involved in the Interaction with Cardiac HERG Potassium Channels

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Many non-cardiovascular drugs of common clinical use cause, as an unwanted accessory property, the prolongation of the cardiac repolarisation process, due to the block of the HERG (Human Ether-a-go-go Related Gene) potassium channel, responsible for the repolarising IKr current. This delayed cardiac repolarisation process can be often unmasked by a prolongation of the QT interval of the ECG. In these conditions, premature action potentials can generate morphologically anomalous after-polarisations, and trigger a dangerous kind of polymorphic ventricular tachyarrhythmia, known as torsade de pointes, which can evolve in ventricular fibrillation and death.

The risk associated with the torsadogenic cardiotoxicity of drugs, which prolong the QT interval has been the topic of documents produced by many health authorities, giving important issues about the preclinical and clinical evaluation of cardiac safety. Besides, public and private research laboratories developed several experimental in vitro or in vivo strategies, aimed to an early recognition of the influence of a drug (or of a drugcandidate) on the HERG channel and / or on the cardiac repolarisation process.

Also the identification of a possible pharmacophore model, common in all or at least in numerous torsadogenic drugs, could represent a first step for the development of useful in silico approaches, allowing a preliminary indication about the potential torsadogenic property of a given molecule.

In this work, we described the electrophysiological basis of torsade de pointes and listed several pharmacological classes of torsadogenic drugs. Among them, we focused our attention on antipsychotics, with an accurate overview on the experimental and clinical reports about their torsadogenic properties. Moreover, a common structural feature exhibited by these drugs, despite of their remarkable chemical differences, is evidenced by a computational approach and is indicated as a possible “facilitating” requirement for their torsadogenic properties.

Together with other remarks, coming from different computational studies, the individuation of a satisfactory “toxicophore” model could be greatly useful, for the theoretical prediction of torsadogenic properties of a given chemical moiety and for the design of new drugs devoid of such an undesired and potentially lethal side-effect.
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Keywords: antipsychotic drugs; cardiotoxicity; drug-induced arrhythmias; qt prolongation; torsade de pointes; torsadogenic drugs

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Dipartimento di Psichiatria,Neurobiologia, Farmacologia e Biotecnologie, Universita degli Studi di Pisa, Via Bonanno, 6, I-56126 Pisa - Italy.

Publication date: 2004-10-01

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