Although sinoatrial node (SAN) dysfunction is a hallmark of human heart failure (HF), the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We aimed to examine the role of adenosine in SAN dysfunction and tachy-brady arrhythmias in chronic HF.Methods and Results—
We applied multiple approaches to characterize SAN structure, SAN function, and adenosine A1 receptor expression in control (n=17) and 4-month tachypacing-induced chronic HF (n=18) dogs. Novel intramural optical mapping of coronary-perfused right atrial preparations revealed that adenosine (10 μmol/L) markedly prolonged postpacing SAN conduction time in HF by 206±99 milliseconds (versus 66±21 milliseconds in controls; P=0.02). Adenosine induced SAN intranodal conduction block or microreentry in 6 of 8 dogs with HF versus 0 of 7 controls (P=0.007). Adenosine-induced SAN conduction abnormalities and automaticity depression caused postpacing atrial pauses in HF versus control dogs (17.1±28.9 versus 1.5±1.3 seconds; P<0.001). Furthermore, 10 μmol/L adenosine shortened atrial repolarization and led to pacing-induced atrial fibrillation in 6 of 7 HF versus 0 of 7 control dogs (P=0.002). Adenosine-induced SAN dysfunction and atrial fibrillation were abolished or prevented by adenosine A1 receptor antagonists (50 μmol/L theophylline/1 μmol/L 8-cyclopentyl-1,3-dipropylxanthine). Adenosine A1 receptor protein expression was significantly upregulated during HF in the SAN (by 47±19%) and surrounding atrial myocardium (by 90±40%). Interstitial fibrosis was significantly increased within the SAN in HF versus control dogs (38±4% versus 23±4%; P<0.001).Conclusions—
In chronic HF, adenosine A1 receptor upregulation in SAN pacemaker and atrial cardiomyocytes may increase cardiac sensitivity to adenosine. This effect may exacerbate conduction abnormalities in the structurally impaired SAN, leading to SAN dysfunction, and potentiate atrial repolarization shortening, thereby facilitating atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation may further depress SAN function and lead to tachy-brady arrhythmias in HF.