Modulating cardiac conduction during metabolic ischemia with perfusate sodium and calcium in guinea pig hearts

Sharon A. George, Gregory Hoeker, Patrick J. Calhoun, Michael Entz, Tristan B. Raisch, D. Ryan King, Momina Khan, Chandra Baker, Robert G. Gourdie, James W. Smyth, Morten S. Nielsen, Steven Poelzing*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We previously demonstrated that altering extracellular sodium (Nao) and calcium (Cao) can modulate a form of electrical communication between cardiomyocytes termed “ephaptic couplingA. (EpC), especially during loss of gap junction coupling. We hypothesized that altering Nao and Cao modulates conduction velocity (CV) and arrhythmic burden during ischemia. Electrophysiology was quantified by optically mapping Langendorff-perfused guinea pig ventricles with modified Nao (147 or 155 mM) and Cao (1.25 or 2.0 mM) during 30 min of simulated metabolic ischemia (pH 6.5, anoxia, aglycemia). Gap junction- adjacent perinexal width (WP), a candidate cardiac ephapse, and connexin (Cx)43 protein expression and Cx43 phosphorylation at S368 were quantified by transmission electron microscopy and Western immunoblot analysis, respectively. Metabolic ischemia slowed CV in hearts perfused with 147 mM Nao and 2.0 mM Cao; however, theoretically increasing EpC with 155 mM Nao was arrhythmogenic, and CV could not be measured. Reducing Cao to 1.25 mM expanded WP, as expected during ischemia, consistent with reduced EpC, but attenuated CV slowing while delaying arrhythmia onset. These results were further supported by osmotically reducing WP with albumin, which exacerbated CV slowing and increased early arrhythmias during ischemia, whereas mannitol expanded WP, permitted conduction, and delayed the onset of arrhythmias. Cx43 expression patterns during the various interventions insufficiently correlated with observed CV changes and arrhythmic burden. In conclusion, decreasing perfusate calcium during metabolic ischemia enhances perinexal expansion, attenuates conduction slowing, and delays arrhythmias. Thus, perinexal expansion may be cardioprotective during metabolic ischemia. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study demonstrates, for the first time, that modulating perfusate ion composition can alter cardiac electrophysiology during simulated metabolic ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H849-H861
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Arrhythmia
  • Calcium
  • Conduction
  • Ischemia
  • Sodium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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