- Background: Until recently, the membrane protein ZnT-1 was studied mainly in the context of zinc homeostasis. However, new findings indicate that it acts as an inhibitor of L-type calcium channels. We recently found that acute rapid pacing of the rat atria in vivo augments the expression of ZnT-1, while knockdown of ZnT-1 in culture can oppose the inhibition of L-type calcium channels following rapid pacing. This pilot study, the first to assess cardiac ZnT-1 in humans, was designed to look for possible correlation between the atrial expression of ZnT-1 and atrial fibrillation. Methods: Right atrial appendage tissue was collected from 39 patients (27 with sinus rhythm and 12 with atrial fibrillation; 6-permanent, 6- paroxysmal or persistent) undergoing open-heart surgery. The expression of ZnT-1 was analyzed by Western blot utilizing β-actin as an internal loading control and a standard rat heart sample (STD) for inter-blot comparison. Results: Overall atrial fibrillation patients (n = 12) had median ZnT-1/β-actin of 1.80 STD (inter-quartile range 1.26 to 2.85) versus 0.73 STD (0.24 to 1.64) in the sinus rhythm group (P = 0.002). No association was found between ZnT-1 level and most other clinical parameters tested. Multivariate analysis determined that atrial fibrillation and increased body mass index were the only independent variables clearly associated with higher ZnT-1 levels (Standardized coefficients Beta = 0.62, 0.31; P = 0.002, P = 0.04, respectively). Conclusions: This pilot study provides evidence for increased ZnT-1 expression in the atria of patients with atrial fibrillation.