ST elevation on an electrocardiogram is a hallmark of acute transmural ischemia. However, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. We hypothesized that high ischemic sensitivities of epicardial adenosine triphosphate-sensitive potassium (IKATP) and sodium (INa) currents play key roles in the genesis of ST elevation. Using a multi-scale heart simulation under moderately ischemic conditions, transmural heterogeneities of IKATP and INa created a transmural gradient, opposite to that observed in subendocardial injury, leading to ST elevation. These heterogeneities also contributed to the genesis of hyper-acute T waves under mildly ischemic conditions.
By contrast, under severely ischemic conditions, although action potentials were suppressed transmurally, the potential gradient at the boundary between the ischemic and normal regions caused ST elevation without a contribution from transmural heterogeneity. Thus, transmural heterogeneities of ion channel properties may contribute to the genesis of ST-T changes during mild or moderate transmural ischemia, while ST elevation may be induced without the contribution of heterogeneity under severe ischemic conditions.