Microscopic conduction in cultured strands of neonatal rat heart cells measured with voltage-sensitive dyes.
Microscopic discontinuities in electrical activation were assessed in synthetic strands of neonatal rat myocytes cultured on a growth-directing matrix. An optical method using voltage-sensitive dye (RH-237) and a photodiode technique was used for recordings of membrane potential changes with subcellular resolution. Spatial resolution of the method (diameter of measurement area, 5.5 microns; interdiode distance, 30 microns) allowed for simultaneous measurements of cytoplasmic conduction time within a single cell and junctional conduction time across the cell border. In one-dimensional cell chains, where cells were juxtaposed by end-to-end connections but devoid of lateral connections, propagation of the excitation wave was strongly nonuniform: cytoplasmic conduction time was 38 +/- 30 (mean +/- SD) microseconds (n = 37), whereas junctional conduction time was 118 +/- 40 microseconds (n = 27, P < .0001). A mean delay introduced by a single junction was 80 microseconds, or 51% of conduction time. In two-dimensional strands consisting of several cells in width, which exhibited lateral as well as end-to-end connections, inhomogeneity of conduction was smaller: the cytoplasmic and junctional conduction times were 57 +/- 30 (n = 46) and 89 +/- 40 (n = 48) microseconds, respectively (P < .0001); mean junctional conduction delay was 32 microseconds (22% of conduction time). Mathematical modeling suggested that the averaging effect of lateral connections is caused by lateral convergence of local excitatory current beyond and lateral divergence before end-to-end connections. Our results demonstrate that the current flow through lateral cell-to-cell connections smooth the excitation wave front during longitudinal conduction in myocardial tissue.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association