Mechanistic Insights Into the Reduced Pacemaking Rate of the Rabbit Sinoatrial Node During Postnatal Development: A Simulation Study

Azzah M Alghamdi, Craig P Testrow, Dominic G Whittaker, Mark R Boyett, Jules C Hancox, Henggui Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Marked age- and development- related differences have been observed in morphology and characteristics of action potentials (AP) of neonatal and adult sinoatrial node (SAN) cells. These may be attributable to a different set of ion channel interactions between the different ages. However, the underlying mechanism(s) have yet to be elucidated. The objective of this study was to determine the mechanisms underlying different spontaneous APs and heart rate between neonatal and adult SAN cells of the rabbit heart by biophysical modeling approaches. A mathematical model of neonatal rabbit SAN cells was developed by modifying the current densities and/or kinetics of ion channels and transporters in an adult cell model based on available experimental data obtained from neonatal SAN cells. The single cell models were then incorporated into a multi-cellular, two-dimensional model of the intact SAN-atrium to investigate the functional impact of altered ion channels during maturation on pacemaking electrical activities and their conduction at the tissue level. Effects of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine on the pacemaking activities in neonatal cells were also investigated and compared to those in the adult. Our results showed: (1) the differences in ion channel properties between neonatal and adult SAN cells are able to account for differences in their APs and the heart rate, providing mechanistic insight into understanding the reduced pacemaking rate of the rabbit sinoatrial node during postnatal development; (2) in the 2D model of the intact SAN-atria, it was shown that cellular changes during postnatal development impaired pacemaking activity through increasing the activation time and reducing the conduction velocity across the SAN; (3) the neonatal SAN model, with its faster beating rates, showed a greater sensitivity to parasympathetic modulation in response to acetylcholine than did the adult model. These results provide novel insights into the understanding of the cellular mechanisms underlying the differences in the cardiac pacemaking activities of the neonatal and adult SAN.

Original languageEnglish
Article number547577
Number of pages26
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2020

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