Cell-to-Cell Electrical Interactions During Early and Late Repolarization

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Abstract

Cardiac electrical activity is significantly affected by variations in the conductance of gap junctions that connect myocytes to one another. To better understand how intrinsic (single cell) electrical activity is modulated by junctional conductance, we used a two-myocyte coupling system in which physically separate cells were electrically coupled via a variable resistance set by the investigator. This brief review summarizes our findings regarding: (1) the effect of the early phase of action potential repolarization (phase 1) and transient outward current (Ito) on action potential conduction, and (2) the effect of coupling on the action potential plateau (late repolarization). We found that inhibition of Ito markedly increased the ability of action potentials to propagate from cell-to-cell when junctional conductance was low. Electrically coupling two myocytes together also suppressed their beat-to-beat variability in action potential duration and contraction. Similarly, early afterdepolarizations (EADS) were readily suppressed by connecting a normal myocyte to one generating EADs. This high sensitivity of the plateau to variations in junctional interactions arises from the large increase in membrane resistance that occurs during this phase of the action potential.

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