Distribution of gap junctions in dog and rat ventricle studied with a double-label technique.
To assess the distribution of gap junctions in relation to the cardiac myocyte surface in paraffin sections of dog and rat ventricle, the sarcolemma was labeled with wheat germ agglutinin (WGA1) and gap junctions were labeled with antibodies to cardiac muscle gap junction protein connexin43. WGA labeled all of the myocyte sarcolemma, including that in intercalated discs and transverse tubules. Sarcolemmal WGA labeling was often interrupted at the sites of gap junctions, which were found both at the extreme ends of myocytes and along the length of adjacent myocytes. Small gap junctions predominated at plicate transverse portions of the intercalated disc; larger and sometimes ribbon-like gap junctions predominated at longitudinal portions. The longitudinal portions of the intercalated disc often extended over multiple sarcomere lengths, with ribbon-like gap junctions and linear arrays of smaller gap junctions arranged in parallel overlying successive sarcomeres. Morphometric study showed that ribbon-like gap junctions were relatively infrequent in both dog and rat left ventricular epimyocardium, and that animals with larger myocytes tended to have smaller gap junctions. In dog left ventricular epimyocardium, neither myocytes nor their larger gap junctions were randomly oriented with respect to perimysial separations; myocytes were usually somewhat flattened with their maximal diameters parallel to the separations, whereas large gap junctions were least often oriented parallel or perpendicular to the separations. Overall, the data indicate that myocyte geometry influences gap junction size and distribution; the double-label technique is ideally suited for the further exploration of that influence.
Dolber, PC; Beyer, EC; Junker, JL; Spach, MS
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