Early afterdepolarizations and triggered activity induced by cocaine: A possible mechanism of cocaine arrhythmogenesis

Shinichi Kimura, Arthur L. Bassett, Hongying Xi, Robert J. Myerburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Background. Cocaine may produce life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, but it is not clear whether this is an indirect effect of coronary vasoconstriction and ischemia or a direct myocardial effect of the substance. Except for its effects on the Na+ current as a local anesthetic, little is known about the direct electrophysiological actions on cardiac cells. Therefore, we studied the effects of cocaine on action potentials and membrane currents in isolated feline ventricular myocytes to test the hypothesis that cocaine-induced arrhythmogenesis may be based on cellular and ionic mechanisms. Methods and Results. Action potentials and membrane currents were recorded using the patch clamp technique. Single cells were isolated from feline left ventricles by enzymatic digestion. Exposure to cocaine (10 or 50 μM) depressed the plateau phase of the action potential and prolonged action potential duration. Action potential duration measured at 90% repolarization (APD90) was increased from 280±12 msec to 325±17 msec (p<0.01) by 5-minute exposure to 10 μmol cocaine, when the cells were stimulated at 1 Hz. During exposure to 50 μmol cocaine, APD90 was markedly increased from 298±13 msec to 437±35 msec (p<0.01) in seven of 16 cells, and early afterdepolarizations (EADs) developed in these cells. The take-off potential and the amplitude of EADs were -28.3±2.3 mV and 16.8±1.2 mV, respectively. Triggered activity arising from EADs was induced in four of the seven cells. Addition of 1 nmol isoproterenol augmented EADs and induced sustained triggered activity, whereas they were suppressed by exposure to 2 μM verapamil. Whole-cell voltage clamp experiments revealed that cocaine (50 μM) reduced the peak L-type Ca2+ current from 1.03±0.13 nA to 0.79±0.11 nA (23% reduction, p<0.05). Cocaine also reduced the peak delayed rectifier K+ current from 362±51 pA to 113±32 pA (69% reduction, p<0.01). However, cocaine did not affect activation and inactivation kinetics of these channels. Cocaine had no effect on the inward rectifier K+ current. Conclusions. We conclude that cocaine can prolong action potential duration and induce EADs and triggered activity by blocking the delayed rectifier K+ current, and that cocaine-induced abnormalities of repolarization, modulated by its inhibitory effects on catecholamine reuptake, may play a role in the potential of cocaine for induction of acute fatal arrhythmias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2227-2235
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Action potential
  • Ca current
  • Cell, single ventricular
  • Delayed rectifier K current
  • Patch clamp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Early afterdepolarizations and triggered activity induced by cocaine: A possible mechanism of cocaine arrhythmogenesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this