Electrical coupling between ventricular myocytes and myofibroblasts in the infarcted mouse heart

Michael Rubart*, Wen Tao, Xiao Long Lu, Simon J. Conway, Sean P. Reuter, Shien-Fong Lin, Mark H. Soonpaa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Aims Recent studies have demonstrated electrotonic coupling between scar tissue and the surrounding myocardium in cryoinjured hearts. However, the electrical dynamics occurring at the myocyte-nonmyocyte interface in the fibrotic heart remain undefined. Here, we sought to develop an assay to interrogate the nonmyocyte cell type contributing to heterocellular coupling and to characterize, on a cellular scale, its voltage response in the infarct border zone of living hearts. Methods and results We used two-photon laser scanning microscopy in conjunction with a voltage-sensitive dye to record transmembrane voltage changes simultaneously from cardiomyocytes and adjoined nonmyocytes in Langendorff-perfused mouse hearts with healing myocardial infarction. Transgenic mice with cardiomyocyte-restricted expression of a green fluorescent reporter protein underwent permanent coronary artery ligation and their hearts were subjected to voltage imaging 7-10 days later. Reporter-negative cells, i.e. nonmyocytes, in the infarct border zone exhibited depolarizing transients at a 1:1 coupling ratio with action potentials recorded simultaneously from adjacent, reporter-positive ventricular myocytes. The electrotonic responses in the nonmyocytes exhibited slower rates of de- and repolarization compared to the action potential waveform of juxtaposed myocytes. Voltage imaging in infarcted hearts expressing a fluorescent reporter specifically in myofibroblasts revealed that the latter were electrically coupled to border zone myocytes. Their voltage transient properties were indistinguishable from those of nonmyocytes in hearts with cardiomyocyte-restricted reporter expression. The density of connexin43 expression at myofibroblast-cardiomyocyte junctions was 1/45% of that in the intercalated disc regions of paired ventricular myocytes in the remote, uninjured myocardium, whereas the ratio of connexin45 to connexin43 expression levels at heterocellular contacts was 1/41%. Conclusion Myofibroblasts contribute to the population of electrically coupled nonmyocytes in the infarct border zone. The slower kinetics of myofibroblast voltage responses may reflect low electrical conductivity across heterocellular junctions, in accordance with the paucity of connexin expression at myofibroblast-cardiomyocyte contacts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Cardiac fibroblast
  • Electrical coupling
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Periostin
  • Two-photon fluorescence microscopy

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