Immunohistochemical delineation of the conduction system. II: The atrioventricular node and Purkinje fibers.
Using an antibody that reacts specifically with the myocytes of the conduction system of the bovine heart, we have studied the atrioventricular node and the spatial distribution of the Purkinje fibers in the bovine heart. This study was complemented by studying the distribution of the gap junction protein connexin43 in these areas in the bovine heart and in the human heart. The large Purkinje fibers in the bovine heart are arranged in a two-dimensional network underneath the endocardium. At discrete sites, these fibers branch to the Purkinje fibers situated between the muscle bundles of the ventricular mass. These intramural Purkinje fibers are arranged in sheets that form a complex three-dimensional network of lamellas. Contacts with the ventricular myocytes are found throughout the myocardial wall, with the exception of a subepicardial layer of 2-mm thickness, ie, 10% to 15% of the wall thickness. The spatial arrangement of the Purkinje fibers correlates well with data on electrophysiology. Connexin43 was not detected in the myocytes of the atrioventricular node, whereas in the Purkinje fibers of the atrioventricular bundle and of the bundle branches, abundant expression of connexin43 was found in both humans and cows. In the bovine Purkinje fibers, a remarkable subcellular distribution of connexin43 is found: it occupies the entire plasma membrane facing other Purkinje cells but not that facing the surrounding connective tissue. The structural differences in architecture of the ventricular conduction system in humans and cows seems not to result in substantial differences in conduction velocities. However, the Purkinje fiber network in the bovine heart may explain the efficient ventricular excitation, as reflected by the relatively short QRS complex compared with that in the human heart, where intramural Purkinje fibers are not found.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association