The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 179–192 | Cite as

Gap junction formation and functional interaction between neonatal rat cardiocytes in culture: A correlative physiological and ultrastructural study

  • M. B. Rook
  • B. de Jonge
  • H. J. Jongsma
  • M. A. Masson-Pévet


The time course of gap junction formation and growth, following contraction synchronization of cardiac myocytes in culture, has been studied in a combined (electro)physiological and ultrastructural study. In cultures of collagenase-dissociated neonatal rat cardiocytes, pairs of spontaneously beating myocytes synchronized their contractions within one beat interval within 2–20 min after they apparently had grown into contact, 45 sec after the first synchronized beat an appreciable junctional region containing several small gap junctions was already present. In the following 30 min, neither the area of individual gap junctions nor their total area increased, 75 min after synchronization both the area of individual gap junctions and their total area had increased by a factor of 10–15 with respect to what was found in the first half hour. In the period between 75 and 300 min again no further increase in gap junctional area was found. In double voltage-clamp experiments, gap junctions between well-coupled cells behaved like ohmic conductors. In poorly coupled cells, in which the number of functional gap-junctional channels was greatly reduced, the remaining channels showed voltage-dependent gating. Their single-channel conductance was 40–50 pS. The electrophysiologically measured junctional conductance agreed well with the conductance calculated from the morphometrically determined gap-junctional area. It is concluded that a rapid initial gap junction formation occurs during the 2–20 min period prior to synchronization by assembly of functional channels from existing channel precursors already present in the cell membranes. It then takes at least another 30 min before the gap-junctional area increases possibly byde novo synthesis or by recruitment from intracellular stores or from nonjunctional membranes, a process completed in the next 45 min.

Key Words

beat-rate synchronization morphometry junctional conductance voltage clamp single-channel conductance 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. B. Rook
    • 1
  • B. de Jonge
    • 1
  • H. J. Jongsma
    • 1
  • M. A. Masson-Pévet
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physiology, A.M.C.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.CNRS URA1332, Laboratoire de ZoologieUniversité Louis PasteurStrasbourgFrance

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