Cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid produced by the Cannabis sativa plant, blocks a variety of cardiac ion channels. We aimed to identify whether CBD regulated the cardiac pacemaker channel or the hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide–gated channel (HCN4). HCN4 channels are important for the generation of the action potential in the sinoatrial node of the heart and increased heart rate in response to β-adrenergic stimulation. HCN4 channels were expressed in HEK 293T cells, and the effect of CBD application was examined using a whole-cell patch clamp. We found that CBD depolarized the V1/2 of activation in holo-HCN4 channels, with an EC50 of 1.6 µM, without changing the current density. CBD also sped activation kinetics by approximately threefold. CBD potentiation of HCN4 channels occurred via binding to the closed state of the channel. We found that CBD’s mechanism of action was distinct from cAMP, as CBD also potentiated apo-HCN4 channels. The addition of an exogenous PIP2 analog did not alter the ability of CBD to potentiate HCN4 channels, suggesting that CBD also acts using a unique mechanism from the known HCN4 potentiator PIP2. Lastly, to gain insight into CBD’s mechanism of action, computational modeling and targeted mutagenesis were used to predict that CBD binds to a lipid-binding pocket at the C-terminus of the voltage sensor. CBD represents the first FDA-approved drug to potentiate HCN4 channels, and our findings suggest a novel starting point for drug development targeting HCN4 channels.

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