Intercellular Junctions and the Cardiac Intercalated Disk
Cardiac muscle cells are equipped with three distinct types of intercellular junction—gap junctions, “spot” desmosomes, and “sheet” desmosomes (or fasciae adherentes)—located in a specialized portion of the plasma membrane, the intercalated disk. Gap junctions are responsible for electrical coupling and the transfer of small molecules between cells, whereas the desmosomelike junctions (also known as adherens junctions) provide strong intercellular adhesion. The adhesion sites formed by the “spot” desmosome anchor the intermediate-filament cytoskeleton of the cell; those formed by the fascia adherens anchor the contractile apparatus. An understanding of the ultrastructure of these junctions helps explain how they carry out their functions, and new observations in this field have been made through the application of ultrarapid freezing techniques in conjunction with freeze-fracture electron microscopy. With recent findings from biochemical and immunocytochemical studies, this understanding is now being extended to the molecular level.
KeywordsIntercellular Junction Cardiac Muscle Cell Intercalate Disk Serial Thin Section Zonula Adherens
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