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Heterogeneity of transverse-axial tubule system in mouse atria: Remodeling in atrial-specific Na+-Ca2+ exchanger knockout mice.


Transverse-axial tubules (TATs) are commonly assumed to be sparse or absent in atrial myocytes from small animals. Atrial myocytes from rats, cats and rabbits lack TATs, which results in a characteristic "V"-shaped Ca release pattern in confocal line-scan recordings due to the delayed rise of Ca in the center of the cell. To examine TAT expression in isolated mouse atrial myocytes, we loaded them with the membrane dye Di-4-ANEPPS to label TATs. We found that >80% of atrial myocytes had identifiable TATs. Atria from male mice had a higher TAT density than female mice, and TAT density correlated with cell width. Using the fluorescent Ca indicator Fluo-4-AM and confocal imaging, we found that wild type (WT) mouse atrial myocytes generate near-synchronous Ca transients, in contrast to the "V"-shaped pattern typically reported in other small animals such as rat. In atrial-specific Na-Ca exchanger (NCX) knockout (KO) mice, which develop sinus node dysfunction and atrial hypertrophy with dilation, we found a substantial loss of atrial TATs in isolated atrial myocytes. There was a greater loss of transverse tubules compared to axial tubules, resulting in a dominance of axial tubules. Consistent with the overall loss of TATs, NCX KO atrial myocytes displayed a "V"-shaped Ca transient with slower and reduced central (CT) Ca release and uptake in comparison to subsarcolemmal (SS) Ca release. We compared chemically detubulated (DT) WT cells to KO, and found similar slowing of CT Ca release and uptake. However, SS Ca transients in the WT DT cells had faster uptake kinetics than KO cells, consistent with the presence of NCX and normal sarcolemmal Ca efflux in the WT DT cells. We conclude that the remodeling of NCX KO atrial myocytes is accompanied by a loss of TATs leading to abnormal Ca release and uptake that could impact atrial contractility and rhythm.

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