The intercalated disk (ID) is a complex structure that electromechanically couples adjoining cardiac myocytes into a functional syncitium. The integrity of the disk is essential for normal cardiac function, but how the diverse elements are assembled into a fully integrated structure is not well understood. In this study, we examined the assembly of new IDs in primary cultures of adult rat cardiac myocytes. From 2 to 5 days after dissociation, the cells flatten and spread, establishing new cell-cell contacts in a manner that recapitulates the in vivo processes that occur during heart development and myocardial remodeling. As cells make contact with their neighbors, transmembrane adhesion proteins localize along the line of apposition, concentrating at the sites of membrane attachment of the terminal sarcomeres. Cx43 gap junctions and ankyrin-G, an essential cytoskeletal component of voltage gated sodium channel complexes, were secondarily recruited to membrane domains involved in cell-cell contacts. The consistent order of the assembly process suggests that there are specific scaffolding requirements for integration of the mechanical and electrochemical elements of the disk. Defining the relationships that are the foundation of disk assembly has important implications for understanding the mechanical dysfunction and cardiac arrhythmias that accompany alterations of ID architecture.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis