Inhibiting Persistent Inward Sodium Currents Prevents Myotonia

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Patients with myotonia congenita have muscle hyperexcitability due to loss-of-function mutations in the ClC-1 chloride channel in skeletal muscle, which causes involuntary firing of muscle action potentials (myotonia), producing muscle stiffness. The excitatory events that trigger myotonic action potentials in the absence of stabilizing ClC-1 current are not fully understood. Our goal was to identify currents that trigger spontaneous firing of muscle in the setting of reduced ClC-1 current. Methods: In vitro intracellular current clamp and voltage clamp recordings were performed in muscle from a mouse model of myotonia congenita. Results: Intracellular recordings revealed a slow afterdepolarization (AfD) that triggers myotonic action potentials. The AfD is well explained by a tetrodotoxin-sensitive and voltage-dependent Na+ persistent inward current (NaPIC). Notably, this NaPIC undergoes slow inactivation over seconds, suggesting this may contribute to the end of myotonic runs. Highlighting the significance of this mechanism, we found that ranolazine and elevated serum divalent cations eliminate myotonia by inhibiting AfD and NaPIC. Interpretation: This work significantly changes our understanding of the mechanisms triggering myotonia. Our work suggests that the current focus of treating myotonia, blocking the transient Na+ current underlying action potentials, is an inefficient approach. We show that inhibiting NaPIC is paralleled by elimination of myotonia. We suggest the ideal myotonia therapy would selectively block NaPIC and spare the transient Na+ current. Ann Neurol 2017;82:385–395.