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Cell Commun Adhes. 2014 Jun;21(3):161-7. doi: 10.3109/15419061.2014.905932. Epub 2014 Apr 15.

Intercellular electrical communication in the heart: a new, active role for the intercalated disk.

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Center for Cardiovascular and Regenerative Biology, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute , Roanoke, VA , USA.


Cardiac conduction is the propagation of electrical excitation through the heart and is responsible for triggering individual myocytes to contract in synchrony. Canonically, this process has been thought to occur electrotonically, by means of direct flow of ions from cell to cell. The intercalated disk (ID), the site of contact between adjacent myocytes, has been viewed as a structure composed of mechanical junctions that stabilize the apposition of cell membranes and gap junctions which constitute low resistance pathways between cells. However, emerging evidence suggests a more active role for structures within the ID in mediating intercellular electrical communication by means of non-canonical ephaptic mechanisms. This review will discuss the role of the ID in the context of the canonical, electrotonic view of conduction and highlight new, emerging possibilities of its playing a more active role in ephaptic coupling between cardiac myocytes.


Nav1.5; conduction; connexin; ephaptic; gap junction; intercalated disk; perinexus; sodium channel

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