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Sinoatrial node dysfunction induces cardiac arrhythmias in diabetic mice

Ewa Soltysinska, Tobias Speerschneider, Sine V Winther and Morten B Thomsen*

Author Affiliations

From the Danish National Research Foundation Centre for Cardiac Arrhythmia, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3b; bldg.: 12.5.36, Copenhagen DK-2200, Denmark

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Cardiovascular Diabetology 2014, 13:122  doi:10.1186/s12933-014-0122-y

Published: 12 August 2014



The aim of this study was to probe cardiac complications, including heart-rate control, in a mouse model of type-2 diabetes. Heart-rate development in diabetic patients is not straight forward: In general, patients with diabetes have faster heart rates compared to non-diabetic individuals, yet diabetic patients are frequently found among patients treated for slow heart rates. Hence, we hypothesized that sinoatrial node (SAN) dysfunction could contribute to our understanding of the mechanism behind this conundrum and the consequences thereof.


Cardiac hemodynamic and electrophysiological characteristics were investigated in diabetic db/db and control db/+ mice.


We found improved contractile function and impaired filling dynamics of the heart in db/db mice, relative to db/+ controls. Electrophysiologically, we observed comparable heart rates in the two mouse groups, but SAN recovery time was prolonged in diabetic mice. Adrenoreceptor stimulation increased heart rate in all mice and elicited cardiac arrhythmias in db/db mice only. The arrhythmias emanated from the SAN and were characterized by large RR fluctuations. Moreover, nerve density was reduced in the SAN region.


Enhanced systolic function and reduced diastolic function indicates early ventricular remodeling in obese and diabetic mice. They have SAN dysfunction, and adrenoreceptor stimulation triggers cardiac arrhythmia originating in the SAN. Thus, dysfunction of the intrinsic cardiac pacemaker and remodeling of the autonomic nervous system may conspire to increase cardiac mortality in diabetic patients.

Sinus node; Heart rate variability; ECG; Sympathetic nervous system