Persisting zones of slow impulse conduction in developing chicken hearts.
We performed a correlative electrophysiological and immunohistochemical study of embryonic chicken hearts during the septational period (Hamburger and Hamilton stages 13-31 [2-7 days of incubation]). The analyses yield conclusive evidence for slow conduction, up to 7 days of development, in the outflow tract, in the atrioventricular canal, and in the sinoatrial junction. The conduction velocity remains approximately 1 cm/sec in the outflow tract and increases in the ventricle 20-fold to approximately 20 cm/sec between 2 and 7 days of development. Transmembrane potentials of myocytes in the outflow tract and atrioventricular canal slowly rise (less than 5 V/sec), whereas in the atrium and ventricle, the upstroke velocity is eightfold to 13-fold higher. In the outflow tract, repolarization is completed only after the start of the next cycle. Because of the persistence of slow conduction, the myocardium flanking the developing atria and ventricle is thought to represent segments of persisting "primary" myocardium, whereas the more rapidly conducting "working" myocardium of the ventricle and atria is thought to represent more advanced stages of myocardial differentiation. The persisting primary myocardium was characterized by a continued coexpression of both the atrial and ventricular isoforms of myosin heavy chain. The developing atria and ventricle could be demarcated morphologically from the primary myocardium because the free walls of these segments only express their respective isoforms of myosin heavy chain. The slowly conducting myocardial zones appear to be essential for the function of the embryonic heart because 1) they provide the septating heart with alternating segments of slow and relatively fast conduction necessary for consecutive contraction of the atrial and ventricular segments and 2) their sphincterlike prolonged peristaltic contraction pattern can substitute for the adult type of one-way valves that start to develop at the end of septation.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Heart Association