From syncitium to regulated pump: A cardiac muscle cellular update

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Abstract

The primary purpose of this article is to present a basic overview of some key teaching concepts that should be considered for inclusion in an six- to eight-lecture introductory block on the regulation of cardiac performance for graduate students. Within the context of cardiac excitation-contraction coupling, this review incorporates information on Ca2+ microdomains and local control theory, with particular emphasis on the role of Ca2+ sparks as a key regulatory component of ventricular myocyte contraction dynamics. Recent information pertaining to local Ca2+ cycling in sinoatrial nodal cells (SANCs) as a mechanism underlying cardiac automaticity is also presented as part of the recently described coupled-clock pacemaker system. The details of this regulation are emerging; however, the notion that the sequestration and release of Ca2+ from internal stores in SANCs (similar to that observed in ventricular myocytes) regulates the rhythmic excitation of the heart (i.e., membrane ion channels) is an important advancement in this area. The regulatory role of cardiac adrenergic receptors on cardiac rate and function is also included, and fundamental concepts related to intracellular signaling are discussed. An important point of emphasis is that whole organ cardiac dynamics can be traced back to cellular events regulating intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis and, as such, provides an important conceptual framework from which students can begin to think about whole organ physiology in health and disease. Greater synchrony of Ca2+-regulatory mechanisms between ventricular and pacemaker cells should enhance student comprehension of complex regulatory phenomenon in cardiac muscle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Advances in Physiology Education
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology

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