Send to

Choose Destination
J Anat. 1979 Oct;129(Pt 3):541-59.

Dissociation of adult mammalian heart into single cell suspension: an ultrastructural study.


Adult rat heart was dissociated into a single cell suspension by a perfusion technique which used 0.05% collagenase and 0.1% hyaluronidase in Krebs-Ringer phosphate buffer (KRP). The non-muscle cells of the suspension were separated from the myocytes by centrifugation through 3% Ficoll solution in KRP with 0.01 mM Ca2+. An approximately 90% pure suspension of isolated single muscle cells was obtained with this method. The effects of the successive steps in the dissociation procedure on the ultrastructure of the heart were studied by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. After 30 minutes of enzyme digestion, dissociation of the inner endothelial lining of the ventricle into single cells or small groups of cells became apparent. In addition, the underlying cardiac skeleton began to disintegrate and linear arrays of cardiac muscle cells were observed. After 45 minutes of enzyme digestion the number of released single cells was higher because of the separation of intercalated discs. The majority of non-muscle cells were by now dissociated from the surfaces of muscle cells. Widening of the lateral intercellular spaces between the myocardial cells was associated with separation of desmosomes. In some regions of the heart, intact desmosomes, fasciae adherentes and gap junctions were observed even though lateral intercellular spaces had widened greatly. The majority of myocardial cells had become separated from one another after 60 minutes of enzyme digestion. Separation of gap junctional sites took place in two ways: (1) by 'unzipping' them through enzyme action; (2) by tearing them mechanically. Gap junction remnants were sometimes observed in a vesiculated state within the cell. The dissociation of the heart was ineffective when perfused with media containing 1.0 or 2 mM Ca2+. Alcian blue treatment after 60 minutes of enzyme digestion revealed that the basement membrane, and its accompanying collagen fibrils, was still present on the plasma membrane of dissociated single cells. The isolated myocardial cells retained their normal morphological characteristics. This study has enabled us to understand in detail how dismantlement of highly ordered adult cardiac tissue into a single cell suspension takes place. Cell suspensions of this type should be invaluable in the study of metabolic and synthetic activities in adult myocardial cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center