Acute stress provokes lethal cardiac arrhythmias in the hereditary long QT syndrome. Here we provide a novel molecular mechanism linking beta-adrenergic signaling and altered human ether-a-go-go related gene (HERG) channel activity. Stress stimulates beta-adrenergic receptors, leading to cAMP elevations that can regulate HERG K+ channels both directly and via phosphorylation by cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA). We show that HERG associates with 14-3-3epsilon to potentiate cAMP/PKA effects upon HERG. The binding of 14-3-3 occurs simultaneously at the N- and C-termini of the HERG channel. 14-3-3 accelerates and enhances HERG activation, an effect that requires PKA phosphorylation of HERG and dimerization of 14-3-3. The interaction also stabilizes the lifetime of the PKA-phosphorylated state of the channel by shielding the phosphates from cellular phosphatases. The net result is a prolongation of the effect of adrenergic stimulation upon HERG activity. Thus, 14-3-3 interactions with HERG may provide a unique mechanism for plasticity in the control of membrane excitability and cardiac rhythm.
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