Immunohistochemical delineation of the conduction system. I: The sinoatrial node.
We have raised a mouse monoclonal antibody that reacts specifically with the myocytes of the sinoatrial node of the bovine heart. By use of this antibody (445-6E10) and antibodies against the gap junction protein connexin43, the periphery of the sinoatrial node and the distribution of gap junctions in the nodal region were studied. The reaction patterns of 445-6E10 and anti-connexin43 are exactly complementary; ie, connexin43 was not detected in the nodal myocytes but was clearly present in the atrial myocytes. Both reaction patterns demonstrate that nodal myocytes and atrial myocytes can unambiguously be distinguished by their characteristic molecular phenotype. The transitional nodal myocytes at the periphery of the node that have intermediate morphological and electrophysiological characteristics could now clearly be defined as nodal by our immunohistochemical criteria. The center of the node is surrounded by a region of interdigitating nodal and atrial bundles. Nodal bundles, coming from the center of the node, penetrate the atrial myocardium aligned at atrial bundles, forming histological connections between nodal and atrial myocytes at regular distances. This interdigitating arrangement of bundles of connexin43-negative nodal and connexin43-positive atrial myocytes is also found in the human and rat heart. We hypothesize that the architecture of the periphery of the node is important to prevent silencing of the pacemaking nodal myocytes by the atrium while ensuring a sufficient source loading of the nodal myocytes.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association