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Cardiac myocyte alternans in intact heart: Influence of cell-cell coupling and β-adrenergic stimulation.

  • Author(s): Hammer, Karin P
  • Ljubojevic, Senka
  • Ripplinger, Crystal M
  • Pieske, Burkert M
  • Bers, Donald M
  • et al.

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Cardiac alternans are proarrhythmic and mechanistically link cardiac mechanical dysfunction and sudden cardiac death. Beat-to-beat alternans occur when beats with large Ca(2+) transients and long action potential duration (APD) alternate with the converse. APD alternans are typically driven by Ca(2+) alternans and sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca(2+) release alternans. But the effect of intercellular communication via gap junctions (GJ) on alternans in the intact heart remains unknown.We assessed the effects of cell-to-cell coupling on local alternans in intact Langendorff-perfused mouse hearts, measuring single myocyte [Ca(2+)] alternans synchronization among neighboring cells, and effects of β-adrenergic receptor (β-AR) activation and reduced GJ coupling.Mouse hearts (C57BL/6) were retrogradely perfused and loaded with Fluo8-AM to record cardiac myocyte [Ca(2+)] in situ with confocal microscopy. Single cell resolution allowed analysis of alternans within the intact organ during alternans induction. Carbenoxolone (25 μM), a GJ inhibitor, significantly increased the occurrence and amplitude of alternans in single cells within the intact heart. Alternans were concordant between neighboring cells throughout the field of view, except transiently during onset. β-AR stimulation only reduced Ca(2+) alternans in tissue that had reduced GJ coupling, matching effects seen in isolated myocytes.Ca(2+) alternans among neighboring myocytes is predominantly concordant, likely because of electrical coupling between cells. Consistent with this, partial GJ uncoupling increased propensity and amplitude of Ca(2+) alternans, and made them more sensitive to reversal by β-AR activation, as in isolated myocytes. Electrical coupling between myocytes may thus limit the alternans initiation, but also allow alternans to be more stable once established.

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