A subpopulation of cells with unique electrophysiological properties in the deep subepicardium of the canine ventricle. The M cell.
Recent studies have shown that canine ventricular epicardium and endocardium differ with respect to electrophysiological characteristics and pharmacological responsiveness and that these differences are in large part due to the presence of a prominent transient outward current Ito and a spike-and-dome morphology of the action potential in epicardium but not endocardium. In attempting to quantitate these differences and assess their gradation across the ventricular wall, we encountered a subpopulation of cells in the deep subepicardial layers with electrophysiological characteristics different from those of either epicardium or endocardium. These cells, which we have termed M cells, display a spike-and-dome morphology typical of epicardium but a maximal rate of rise of the action potential upstroke that is considerably greater than that of either epicardium or endocardium. Using the restitution of the amplitude of phase 1 of the action potential as a marker for the reactivation of Ito, we showed M cells to possess a prominent 4-aminopyridine-sensitive Ito with a reactivation time course characterized by two components with fast and slow time constants. The rate dependence of action potential duration of M cells was considerably more accentuated than that of epicardium or endocardium and more akin to that of Purkinje fibers (not observed histologically in this region). Phase 4 depolarization was never observed in M cells, not even after exposure to catecholamines and/or low [K+]o. In summary, our study presents evidence for the existence of a unique subpopulation of cells in the deep subepicardium of the canine left and right ventricles with electrophysiological features intermediate between those of conducting and myocardial cells. Although their function is unknown, M cells may facilitate conduction in epicardium and are likely to influence or mediate the manifestation of electrocardiographic J waves, T waves, U waves, and long QT intervals and contribute importantly to arrhythmogenesis.
- Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association