Heterogeneity of T-Tubules in Pig Hearts

Hanne C Gadeberg, Richard C Bond, Cherrie Kong, Guillaume Chanoit, Raimondo Ascione, Mark Cannell, Andrew James

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T-tubules are invaginations of the sarcolemma that play a key role in excitation-contraction coupling in mammalian cardiac myocytes. Although t-tubules were generally considered to be effectively absent in atrial myocytes, recent studies on atrial cells from larger mammals suggest that t-tubules may be more numerous than previously supposed. However, the degree of heterogeneity between cardiomyocytes in the extent of the t-tubule network remains unclear. The aim of the present study was to investigate the t-tubule network of pig atrial myocytes in comparison with ventricular tissue.


Cardiac tissue was obtained from young female Landrace White pigs (45–75 kg, 5–6 months old). Cardiomyocytes were isolated by arterial perfusion with a collagenase-containing solution. Ca2+ transients were examined in field-stimulated isolated cells loaded with fluo-4-AM. Membranes of isolated cells were visualized using di-8-ANEPPS. T-tubules were visualized in fixed-frozen tissue sections stained with Alexa-Fluor 488-conjugated WGA. Binary images were obtained by application of a threshold and t-tubule density (TTD) calculated. A distance mapping approach was used to calculate half-distance to nearest t-tubule (HDTT).

Results & Conclusion

The spatio-temporal properties of the Ca2+ transient appeared to be consistent with the absence of functional t-tubules in isolated atrial myocytes. However, t-tubules could be identified in a sub-population of atrial cells in frozen sections. While all ventricular myocytes had TTD >3% (mean TTD = 6.94±0.395%, n = 24), this was true of just 5/22 atrial cells. Mean atrial TTD (2.35±0.457%, n = 22) was lower than ventricular TTD (P<0.0001). TTD correlated with cell-width (r = 0.7756, n = 46, P<0.0001). HDTT was significantly greater in the atrial cells with TTD ≤3% (2.29±0.16 μm, n = 17) than in either ventricular cells (1.33±0.05 μm, n = 24, P<0.0001) or in atrial cells with TTD >3% (1.65±0.06 μm, n = 5, P<0.05). These data demonstrate considerable heterogeneity between pig cardiomyocytes in the extent of t-tubule network, which correlated with cell size.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0156862
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2016


  • atrial myocytes
  • cardiomyocytes
  • confocal imaging
  • transverse tubules
  • ventricular myocytes


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