Reviewed March 2015
What is the official name of the SCN5A gene?
The official name of this gene is “sodium channel, voltage gated, type V alpha subunit.”
SCN5A is the gene's official symbol. The SCN5A gene is also known by other names, listed below.
What is the normal function of the SCN5A gene?
The SCN5A gene belongs to a family of genes that provide instructions for making sodium channels. These channels, which transport positively charged sodium atoms (sodium ions) into cells, play a key role in a cell's ability to generate and transmit electrical signals.
The SCN5A gene provides instructions for making a sodium channel that is abundant in heart (cardiac) muscle. These channels open and close at specific times to control the flow of sodium ions into cardiac muscle cells. By changing the electrical properties of these cells, sodium channels play a major role in signaling the start of each heartbeat, coordinating the contractions of the upper and lower chambers of the heart, and maintaining a normal heart rhythm.
Does the SCN5A gene share characteristics with other genes?
The SCN5A gene belongs to a family of genes called SC (sodium channels).
A gene family is a group of genes that share important characteristics. Classifying individual genes into families helps researchers describe how genes are related to each other. For more information, see What are gene families? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/howgeneswork/genefamilies) in the Handbook.
How are changes in the SCN5A gene related to health conditions?
- Brugada syndrome - caused by mutations in the SCN5A gene
More than 300 mutations in the SCN5A gene have been identified in people with Brugada syndrome, which is a heart condition characterized by an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). SCN5A gene mutations also cause sudden unexpected nocturnal death syndrome (SUNDS), which was originally described in Southeast Asian populations. Researchers have since determined that SUNDS and Brugada syndrome are the same disorder.
Some SCN5A gene mutations change single protein building blocks (amino acids) in the SCN5A protein. These mutations alter the structure of ion channels made with the SCN5A protein and disrupt the flow of sodium ions into cardiac muscle cells. Other mutations prevent the SCN5A gene from producing any functional ion channels, which also reduces the inward flow of sodium ions. A disruption in ion transport changes the way the heart beats, leading to the arrhythmia often found in Brugada syndrome and SUNDS.
- Romano-Ward syndrome - caused by mutations in the SCN5A gene
More than 200 mutations in the SCN5A gene are known to cause Romano-Ward syndrome, often called long QT syndrome. This condition causes the heart (cardiac) muscle to take longer than usual to recharge between beats, which can lead to arrhythmia.
The SCN5A gene mutations that cause Romano-Ward syndrome include changes in single amino acids and deletions or insertions of a small number of amino acids in the SCN5A protein. Channels made with these altered SCN5A proteins stay open longer than usual, which allows sodium ions to continue flowing into cardiac muscle cells abnormally. This delay in channel closure alters the transmission of electrical signals in the heart, increasing the risk of an irregular heartbeat that can cause fainting (syncope) or sudden death.
- sick sinus syndrome - caused by mutations in the SCN5A gene
At least 10 mutations in the SCN5A gene have been found to cause another heart condition called sick sinus syndrome. This condition affects the function of the sino-atrial (SA) node, which is an area of specialized cells in the heart that functions as a natural pacemaker. The SCN5A gene mutations that cause sick sinus syndrome lead to the production of nonfunctional sodium channels or abnormal channels that cannot transport ions properly. The flow of these ions is essential for creating the electrical impulses that start each heartbeat and spread these signals to other areas of the heart. Mutations reduce the flow of sodium ions, which alters the SA node's ability to create and spread electrical signals. These changes increase the risk of abnormally fast or slow heartbeats, which can cause dizziness, light-headedness, syncope, and related symptoms.
- other disorders - associated with the SCN5A gene
Variations in the SCN5A gene are associated with several other heart conditions. These include familial heart block, which is an abnormality of the heart's electrical system that increases the risk of syncope and sudden death; and potentially life-threatening forms of arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation and ventricular fibrillation. The genetic variations associated with these conditions alter the flow of sodium ions through the channel, which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and affect the heart's ability to pump blood.
SCN5A gene mutations have also been identified in some cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is a major cause of death in babies younger than 1 year. It is characterized by sudden and unexplained death, usually during sleep. Researchers are working to determine how changes in the SCN5A gene could contribute to SIDS. Other genetic and environmental factors, many of which have not been identified, also play a part in determining the risk of this disorder.
Certain drugs, including medications used to treat arrhythmias, infections, seizures, and psychotic disorders, can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm in some people. This drug-induced heart condition, which is known as acquired long QT syndrome, increases the risk of cardiac arrest and sudden death. A small percentage of cases of acquired long QT syndrome occur in people who have an underlying change in the SCN5A gene.
Where is the SCN5A gene located?
Cytogenetic Location: 3p21
Molecular Location on chromosome 3: base pairs 38,548,057 to 38,649,672
The SCN5A gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 3 at position 21.
More precisely, the SCN5A gene is located from base pair 38,548,057 to base pair 38,649,672 on chromosome 3.
See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/howgeneswork/genelocation) in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about SCN5A?
You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about SCN5A helpful.
Gene Reviews - Clinical summary
- Gene Review: Brugada Syndrome (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1517)
- Gene Review: Dilated Cardiomyopathy Overview (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1309)
- Gene Review: Romano-Ward Syndrome (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1129)
Genetic Testing Registry - Repository of genetic test information
- GTR: Genetic tests for SCN5A (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gtr/tests/?term=6331%5Bgeneid%5D)
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.
- PubMed - Recent literature (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%28SCN5A%5BTIAB%5D%29%20AND%20%28%28Genes%5BMH%5D%29%20OR%20%28Genetic%20Phenomena%5BMH%5D%29%29%20AND%20english%5Bla%5D%20AND%20human%5Bmh%5D%20AND%20%22last%20720%20days%22%5Bdp%5D)
OMIM - Genetic disorder catalog
- ATRIAL FIBRILLATION, FAMILIAL, 10 (http://omim.org/entry/614022)
- CARDIOMYOPATHY, DILATED, 1E (http://omim.org/entry/601154)
- PROGRESSIVE FAMILIAL HEART BLOCK, TYPE IA (http://omim.org/entry/113900)
- SODIUM CHANNEL, VOLTAGE-GATED, TYPE V, ALPHA SUBUNIT (http://omim.org/entry/600163)
- SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (http://omim.org/entry/272120)
- VENTRICULAR FIBRILLATION, PAROXYSMAL FAMILIAL, 1 (http://omim.org/entry/603829)
Research Resources - Tools for researchers
- Atlas of Genetics and Cytogenetics in Oncology and Haematology (http://atlasgeneticsoncology.org/Genes/GC_SCN5A.html)
- HGNC Gene Family: Sodium channels (http://www.genenames.org/genefamilies/SC)
- HGNC Gene Family: Voltage-gated ion channels / Sodium channels (http://www.genenames.org/genefamilies/VGIC)
- HGNC Gene Symbol Report (http://www.genenames.org/cgi-bin/gene_symbol_report?q=data/hgnc_data.php&hgnc_id=10593)
- NCBI Gene (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/6331)
What other names do people use for the SCN5A gene or gene products?
- Sodium channel protein, cardiac muscle alpha-subunit
- sodium channel, voltage-gated, type V, alpha (long QT syndrome 3)
- sodium channel, voltage-gated, type V, alpha subunit
See How are genetic conditions and genes named? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/mutationsanddisorders/naming) in the Handbook.
What glossary definitions help with understanding SCN5A?
atrial fibrillation ;
cardiac arrest ;
ion transport ;
long QT syndrome ;
muscle cells ;
SA node ;
sodium channel ;
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference
- Ackerman MJ, Siu BL, Sturner WQ, Tester DJ, Valdivia CR, Makielski JC, Towbin JA. Postmortem molecular analysis of SCN5A defects in sudden infant death syndrome. JAMA. 2001 Nov 14;286(18):2264-9. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11710892?dopt=Abstract)
- Benson DW, Wang DW, Dyment M, Knilans TK, Fish FA, Strieper MJ, Rhodes TH, George AL Jr. Congenital sick sinus syndrome caused by recessive mutations in the cardiac sodium channel gene (SCN5A). J Clin Invest. 2003 Oct;112(7):1019-28. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14523039?dopt=Abstract)
- Butters TD, Aslanidi OV, Inada S, Boyett MR, Hancox JC, Lei M, Zhang H. Mechanistic links between Na+ channel (SCN5A) mutations and impaired cardiac pacemaking in sick sinus syndrome. Circ Res. 2010 Jul 9;107(1):126-37. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.110.219949. Epub 2010 May 6. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20448214?dopt=Abstract)
- Gui J, Wang T, Jones RP, Trump D, Zimmer T, Lei M. Multiple loss-of-function mechanisms contribute to SCN5A-related familial sick sinus syndrome. PLoS One. 2010 Jun 7;5(6):e10985. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010985. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2010;5(6). doi: 10.1371/annotation/1230d58a-8d86-4a5c-8918-0a2c513839be. PLoS One. 2010;5(7) doi: 10.1371/annotation/b8de07e2-fd0a-4ae3-bfe6-0eb565da0f75. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20539757?dopt=Abstract)
- Herfst LJ, Rook MB, Jongsma HJ. Trafficking and functional expression of cardiac Na+ channels. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2004 Feb;36(2):185-93. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14871545?dopt=Abstract)
- Juang JM, Huang SK. Brugada syndrome--an under-recognized electrical disease in patients with sudden cardiac death. Cardiology. 2004;101(4):157-69. Epub 2004 Feb 12. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14967959?dopt=Abstract)
- Kapplinger JD, Tester DJ, Alders M, Benito B, Berthet M, Brugada J, Brugada P, Fressart V, Guerchicoff A, Harris-Kerr C, Kamakura S, Kyndt F, Koopmann TT, Miyamoto Y, Pfeiffer R, Pollevick GD, Probst V, Zumhagen S, Vatta M, Towbin JA, Shimizu W, Schulze-Bahr E, Antzelevitch C, Salisbury BA, Guicheney P, Wilde AA, Brugada R, Schott JJ, Ackerman MJ. An international compendium of mutations in the SCN5A-encoded cardiac sodium channel in patients referred for Brugada syndrome genetic testing. Heart Rhythm. 2010 Jan;7(1):33-46. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2009.09.069. Epub 2009 Oct 8. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20129283?dopt=Abstract)
- Lei M, Huang CL, Zhang Y. Genetic Na+ channelopathies and sinus node dysfunction. Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2008 Oct-Nov;98(2-3):171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2008.10.003. Epub 2008 Nov 5. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19027778?dopt=Abstract)
- NCBI Gene (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/6331)
- Paulussen AD, Gilissen RA, Armstrong M, Doevendans PA, Verhasselt P, Smeets HJ, Schulze-Bahr E, Haverkamp W, Breithardt G, Cohen N, Aerssens J. Genetic variations of KCNQ1, KCNH2, SCN5A, KCNE1, and KCNE2 in drug-induced long QT syndrome patients. J Mol Med (Berl). 2004 Mar;82(3):182-8. Epub 2004 Feb 4. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14760488?dopt=Abstract)
- Plant LD, Bowers PN, Liu Q, Morgan T, Zhang T, State MW, Chen W, Kittles RA, Goldstein SA. A common cardiac sodium channel variant associated with sudden infant death in African Americans, SCN5A S1103Y. J Clin Invest. 2006 Feb;116(2):430-5. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16453024?dopt=Abstract)
- Shimizu W, Aiba T, Kamakura S. Mechanisms of disease: current understanding and future challenges in Brugada syndrome. Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2005 Aug;2(8):408-14. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16119703?dopt=Abstract)
- Tester DJ, Ackerman MJ. Sudden infant death syndrome: how significant are the cardiac channelopathies? Cardiovasc Res. 2005 Aug 15;67(3):388-96. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15913580?dopt=Abstract)
- Vatta M, Dumaine R, Varghese G, Richard TA, Shimizu W, Aihara N, Nademanee K, Brugada R, Brugada J, Veerakul G, Li H, Bowles NE, Brugada P, Antzelevitch C, Towbin JA. Genetic and biophysical basis of sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome (SUNDS), a disease allelic to Brugada syndrome. Hum Mol Genet. 2002 Feb 1;11(3):337-45. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11823453?dopt=Abstract)
- Yang P, Kanki H, Drolet B, Yang T, Wei J, Viswanathan PC, Hohnloser SH, Shimizu W, Schwartz PJ, Stanton M, Murray KT, Norris K, George AL Jr, Roden DM. Allelic variants in long-QT disease genes in patients with drug-associated torsades de pointes. Circulation. 2002 Apr 23;105(16):1943-8. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11997281?dopt=Abstract)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for
professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about
a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified
See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/consult/findingprofessional) in the Handbook.