The plant alkaloid ibogaine has promising anti-addictive properties. Albeit not licenced as a therapeutic drug, and despite hints that ibogaine may perturb the heart rhythm, this alkaloid is used to treat drug addicts. We have recently reported that ibogaine inhibits human ERG (hERG) potassium channels at concentrations similar to the drugs affinity for several of its known brain targets. Thereby the drug may disturb the heart’s electrophysiology.
Here, to assess the drug’s cardiac ion channel profile in more detail, we studied the effects of ibogaine and its congener 18-Methoxycoronaridine (18-MC) on various cardiac voltage-gated ion channels. We confirmed that heterologously expressed hERG currents are reduced by ibogaine in low micromolar concentrations. Moreover, at higher concentrations, the drug also reduced human Nav1.5 sodium and Cav1.2 calcium currents. Ion currents were as well reduced by 18-MC, yet with diminished potency. Unexpectedly, although blocking hERG channels, ibogaine did not prolong the action potential (AP) in guinea pig cardiomyocytes at low micromolar concentrations. Higher concentrations (≥ 10 μM) even shortened the AP. These findings can be explained by the drug’s calcium channel inhibition, which counteracts the AP-prolonging effect generated by hERG blockade. Implementation of ibogaine’s inhibitory effects on human ion channels in a computer model of a ventricular cardiomyocyte, on the other hand, suggested that ibogaine does prolong the AP in the human heart. We conclude that therapeutic concentrations of ibogaine have the propensity to prolong the QT interval of the electrocardiogram in humans. In some cases this may lead to cardiac arrhythmias.