Fate of gap junctions in isolated adult mammalian cardiomyocytes.
The fate of gap junctions in dissociated adult myocytes, maintained for up to 22 hours in culture medium, was investigated by semiquantitative analysis of thin sections and by freeze-fracture electron microscopy. Gap junctions in the dissociated myocyte are intact bimembranous structures seen either as invaginated surface-located structures or as annular profiles in the cytoplasm. Surface-located junctions are sealed from the exterior by a sheet of nonjunctional membrane originating (together with the "outer" junctional membrane) from the formerly neighboring cell. Serial sectioning was used to establish that at least part of the annular gap junction population in the freshly isolated myocyte represents truly discrete cytoplasmic vesicles; thus, some gap junctions are rapidly endocytosed after myocyte separation. Analysis of the surface-located-to-annular gap junction ratio suggested that no further endocytosis occurred in rabbit and cat myocytes maintained for 22 and 15 hours, respectively. Guinea pig myocytes, by contrast, did appear to continue endocytosis in culture. Analysis of the distance of gap junctional structures from the cell surface suggested that little if any inward migration of gap junction vesicles occurred. Hypoxia had no detectable effect on the internalization or inward movement of gap junctions. The quantity of ultrastructurally detectable gap junction membrane appeared to remain constant over time, as did the incidence of "complex structures" (i.e., annular gap junction profiles with features previously suggested to represent degradation). New gap junction formation was negligible, and a reappraisal of the nature of "complex structures" led to the conclusion that the origin of these structures need not be related to degradation. Taken together, the findings suggest that degradation and disappearance of gap junctional membrane after isolation of the mature myocyte constitute a much slower process than previously believed, and the possibility that the cardiac gap junction protein has a longer half-life than its counterpart in liver remains open.
- Copyright © 1989 by American Heart Association