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J Biomech. 2012 Mar 15;45(5):815-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.11.022. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Critical role of cardiac t-tubule system for the maintenance of contractile function revealed by a 3D integrated model of cardiomyocytes.

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Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8581, Japan.


T-tubules in mammalian ventricular myocytes constitute an elaborate system for coupling membrane depolarization with intracellular Ca(2+) signaling to control cardiac contraction. Deletion of t-tubules (detubulation) has been reported in heart diseases, although the complex nature of the cardiac excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling process makes it difficult to experimentally establish causal relationships between detubulation and cardiac dysfunction. Alternatively, numerical simulations incorporating the t-tubule system have been proposed to elucidate its functional role. However, the majority of models treat the subcellular spaces as lumped compartments, and are thus unable to dissect the impact of morphological changes in t-tubules. We developed a 3D finite element model of cardiomyocytes in which subcellular components including t-tubules, myofibrils, sarcoplasmic reticulum, and mitochondria were modeled and realistically arranged. Based on this framework, physiological E-C coupling was simulated by simultaneously solving the reaction-diffusion equation and the mechanical equilibrium for the mathematical models of electrophysiology and contraction distributed among these subcellular components. We then examined the effect of detubulation in this model by comparing with and without the t-tubule system. This model reproduced the Ca(2+) transients and contraction observed in experimental studies, including the response to beta-adrenergic stimulation, and provided detailed information beyond the limits of experimental approaches. In particular, the analysis of sarcomere dynamics revealed that the asynchronous contraction caused by a large detubulated region can lead to impairment of myocyte contractile efficiency. These data clearly demonstrate the importance of the t-tubule system for the maintenance of contractile function.

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