Measuring electrical properties of the cardiac T-tubular system.
Scardigli M., Crocini C., Ferrantini C., Gabbrielli T., Silvestri L., Coppini R., Tesi C., Rog-Zielinska E.A., Kohl P., Cerbai E., Poggesi C., Pavone F.S., Sacconi L.
Well-coordinated activation of all cardiomyocytes must occur on every heartbeat. At the cell level, a complex network of sarcolemmal invaginations, called the transverse-axial tubular system (TATS), propagates membrane potential changes to the cell core ensuring synchronous and uniform excitation-contraction coupling. Although, myocardial conduction of excitation has been widely described, the electrical properties of the TATS remain mostly unknown. Here, we exploit the formal analogy between diffusion and electrical conductivity to link the latter with the diffusional properties of TATS. Fluorescence recovery after photo-bleaching (FRAP) microscopy is used to probe the diffusion properties of TATS in isolated rat cardiomyocytes: a fluorescent dextran inside TATS lumen is photo-bleached and signal recovery by diffusion of unbleached dextran from the extracellular space is monitored. We designed a mathematical model to correlate the time constant of fluorescence recovery with the apparent diffusion coefficient of the fluorescent molecules. Then, apparent diffusion is linked to electrical conductivity and used to evaluate the efficiency of the passive spread of membrane depolarization along TATS. The method is first validated in cells where most TATS elements are acutely detached by osmotic shock and then applied to probe TATS electrical conductivity in failing heart cells. We find that acute and pathological tubular remodeling significantly affect TATS electrical conductivity. This may explain the occurrence of defects in action potential propagation at the level of single T-tubules, recently observed in diseased cardiomyocytes.