Effects of increasing intercellular resistance on transverse and longitudinal propagation in sheep epicardial muscle.
Propagation in cardiac muscle is faster in the longitudinal than in the transverse axis of the cells. Yet, as a result of the larger upstroke velocity of action potentials propagating transversely, it has been suggested that longitudinal propagation is more vulnerable to block. To study the relation between conduction velocity and maximal upstroke velocity (Vmax), as well as the time course of conduction delay and block in the transverse vs. longitudinal direction, thin square pieces of sheep epicardial muscle were superfused with the cellular uncoupler heptanol (1.5 mM). Action potentials were recorded with microelectrodes at opposite corners of the preparation while stimulating alternately in the longitudinal or transverse direction with bipolar electrodes located at contralateral corners. In all cases, block occurred more promptly for transverse than for longitudinal propagation. The decrease in conduction velocity was greater than expected for Vmax decay and, in some cases, Vmax increased while conduction velocity decreased. In the presence of high grade conduction impairment, foot potentials appeared and the upstrokes became "notched." We conclude that when intercellular coupling is impaired, transverse propagation is more vulnerable to block, and need not be dependent on changes in Vmax.