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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2008 Jan-Apr;96(1-3):226-43. Epub 2007 Aug 11.

Modelling the cardiac transverse-axial tubular system.

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Institute of Thermomechanics, Czech Academy of Science, Branch Brno, Brno, Czech Republic.


The transverse-axial tubular system (TATS) of cardiac ventricular myocytes is a complex network of tubules that arises as invaginations of the surface membrane; it appears to form a specialised region of cell membrane that is particularly important for excitation-contraction coupling. However, much remains unknown about the structure and role of the TATS. In this brief review we use experimental data and computer modelling to address the following key questions: (i) What fraction of the cell membrane is within the TATS? (ii) Is the composition of the TATS membrane the same as the surface membrane? (iii) How good is electrical coupling between the surface and TATS membranes? (iv) What fraction of each current is within the TATS? (v) How important is the complex structure of the TATS network? (vi) What is the effect of current inhomogeneity on lumenal ion concentrations? (vii) Does the TATS contribute to the functional changes observed in heart failure? Although there are many areas in which experimental evidence is lacking, computer models provide a method to assess and predict the possible function of the TATS; such models suggest that although the surface and TATS membranes are electrically well coupled, concentration of ion flux pathways within the TATS, coupled to restricted diffusion, may result in the ionic composition in the TATS lumen being different from that in the bulk extracellular space, and varying with activity and in pathological conditions.

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