In silico investigation of the mechanisms underlying atrial fibrillation due to impaired Pitx2

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


External Institution(s)

  • Jinan University
  • Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland
  • North Shore Hospital
  • The University of Auckland


Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1007678
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number2
StatusPublished - Jan 1 2020


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia and is a major cause of stroke and morbidity. Recent genome-wide association studies have shown that paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 2 (Pitx2) to be strongly associated with AF. However, the mechanisms underlying Pitx2 modulated arrhythmogenesis and variable effectiveness of antiarrhythmic drugs (AADs) in patients in the presence or absence of impaired Pitx2 expression remain unclear. We have developed multi-scale computer models, ranging from a single cell to tissue level, to mimic control and Pitx2-knockout atria by incorporating recent experimental data on Pitx2-induced electrical and structural remodeling in humans, as well as the effects of AADs. The key findings of this study are twofold. We have demonstrated that shortened action potential duration, slow conduction and triggered activity occur due to electrical and structural remodelling under Pitx2 deficiency conditions. Notably, the elevated function of calcium transport ATPase increases sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ concentration, thereby enhancing susceptibility to triggered activity. Furthermore, heterogeneity is further elevated due to Pitx2 deficiency: 1) Electrical heterogeneity between left and right atria increases; and 2) Increased fibrosis and decreased cell-cell coupling due to structural remodelling slow electrical propagation and provide obstacles to attract re-entry, facilitating the initiation of re-entrant circuits. Secondly, our study suggests that flecainide has antiarrhythmic effects on AF due to impaired Pitx2 by preventing spontaneous calcium release and increasing wavelength. Furthermore, our study suggests that Na+ channel effects alone are insufficient to explain the efficacy of flecainide. Our study may provide the mechanisms underlying Pitx2-induced AF and possible explanation behind the AAD effects of flecainide in patients with Pitx2 deficiency.

Citation formats


Bai, J., Lo, A., Gladding, P. A., Stiles, M. K., Fedorov, V. V., & Zhao, J. (2020). In silico investigation of the mechanisms underlying atrial fibrillation due to impaired Pitx2. PLoS computational biology, 16(2), [e1007678].


Bai, J, Lo, A, Gladding, PA, Stiles, MK, Fedorov, VV & Zhao, J 2020, 'In silico investigation of the mechanisms underlying atrial fibrillation due to impaired Pitx2', PLoS computational biology, vol. 16, no. 2, e1007678.