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Electric field interactions between closely abutting excitable cells

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2 Author(s)
Sperelakis, Nicholas ; Coll. of Medicine, Cincinnati Univ., OH, USA ; McConnell, K.

This review article summarizes some of the electrophysical evidence and morphological evidence against the hypothesis that the myocytes of cardiac muscles and visceral smooth muscles are profusely interconnected by low-resistance pathways (e.g., tunnels or gap-junction channels), which would give rise to a long length constant. Instead, propagation of the action potential (AP) is discontinuous, with a substantial junctional delay time at the cell junctions. Since the entire surface membrane of each cell becomes excited nearly simultaneously, a plot of propagation time versus distance (along a strand of cells) exhibits a typical staircase shape. This article demonstrates that the electric field that develops in the narrow junctional cleft (negative cleft potential) when the prejunctional membrane (pre-JM) fires an AP acts to depolarize the post-JM to its threshold. This mechanism, by itself, can account for transmission of excitation from cell to cell, but accessory mechanisms that act additively include K+ accumulation in the junctional clefts, gap-junction channels, and capacitive coupling

Published in:

Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:21 ,  Issue: 1 )

Date of Publication:

Jan/Feb 2002

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