The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 206, Issue 2, pp 141–154 | Cite as

The Antiarrhythmic Effect of n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Modulation of Cardiac Ion Channels as a Potential Mechanism

  • Y.-F. Xiao
  • D.C. Sigg
  • A. Leaf


Sudden cardiac death remains one of the most serious medical challenges in Western countries. Increasing evidence in recent years has demonstrated that the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can prevent fatal ventricular arrhythmias in experimental animals and probably in humans. Dietary supplement of fish oils or intravenous infusion of the n-3 PUFAs prevents ventricular fibrillation caused by ischemia/reperfusion. Similar antiarrhythmic effects of these fatty acids are also observed in cultured mammalian cardiomyocytes. Based on clinical observations and experimental studies in vitro and in vivo, several mechanisms have been postulated for the antiarrhythmic effect of the n-3 PUFAs. The data from our laboratory and others have shown that the n-3 PUFAs are able to affect the activities of cardiac ion channels. The modulation of channel activities, especially voltage-gated Na+ and L-type Ca2+ channels, by the n-3 fatty acids may explain, at least partially, the antiarrhythmic action. It is not clear, however, whether one or more than one mechanism involves the beneficial effect of the n-3 PUFAs on the heart. This article summarizes our recent studies on the specific effects of the n-3 PUFAs on cardiac ion channels. In addition, the effect of the n-3 PUFAs on the human hyperpolarization-activated cyclic-nucleotide-modulated channel is presented.


Cardiac arrhythmia Eicosapentaenoic acid Docosahexaenoic acid Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic-nucleotide-modulated channel Mutation 



Our studies have been supported in part by grants DK38165 from NIDDK and by HL62284 from NHLBI of the National Institutes of Health (AL) and American Heart Association (Y-FX). We wish to thank our colleagues who have contributed to the project for several years.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cardiac Rhythm ManagementMedtronic Inc.MinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Departments of MedicineMassachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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