Intracellular sodium and the positive inotropic effect of veratridine and cardiac glycoside in sheep Purkinje fibers

D. M. Brill, J. A. Wasserstrom

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Veratridine is a sodium channel toxin that exerts a powerful positive inotropic effect and prolongs the action potential duration in the heart. To determine the basis of the inotropic action of veratridine and to examine the effects of dissimilar methods of raising intracellular sodium activity on contractility, we measured twitch tension and intracellular sodium activity using sodium-sensitive microelectrodes in stimulated sheep Purkinje fibers exposed to veratridine and in voltage-clamped fibers exposed to veratridine and cardiac glycoside. In stimulated fibers, veratridine (0.1-1 μm) produced coincident increases in intracellular sodium activity, action potential duration, and tension. In voltage-clamped fibers, veratridine (1-2 μM) and acetylstrophanthidin (0.1 μM) raised intracellular sodium activity and tension to a comparable degree. Tetrodotoxin (10 μM) abolished the mechanical, electrophysiological, and ionic changes produced by veratridine. The relationship between intracellular sodium activity and tension in voltage-clamped fibers (n = 6) was indistinguishable for veratridine and acetylstrophantidin and could be fitted either with a linear function with slopes of 122.8% and 124.2%, respectively, or with a power function with slopes of 4.60 and 4.54, respectively, where the slope represents the exponential power of intracellular sodium activity to which tension is proportional. These results indicate that the positive inotropic action of veratridine is entirely accounted for by accumulation of intracellular sodium, which increases intracellular calcium available for contraction by sodium-calcium exchange. This study is the first direct demonstration that veratridine or any other sodium channel toxin affects intracellular sodium activity and suggests that the inotropic potency of veratridine and cardiac glycoside rely on the same mechanism, namely, elevation of intracellular sodium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-119
Number of pages11
JournalCirculation research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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