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Biophys J. 2018 Dec 4;115(11):2127-2140. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2018.10.026. Epub 2018 Nov 3.

Optical Recording of Action Potential Initiation and Propagation in Mouse Skeletal Muscle Fibers.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
Department of Orthopedics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland. Electronic address:


Skeletal muscle fibers have been used to examine a variety of cellular functions and pathologies. Among other parameters, skeletal muscle action potential (AP) propagation has been measured to assess the integrity and function of skeletal muscle. In this work, we utilize 1-(3-sulfonatopropyl)-4[β[2-(Di-n-octylamino)-6-naphtyl]vinyl]pyridinium betaine, a potentiometric dye, and mag-fluo-4, a low-affinity intracellular Ca2+indicator, to noninvasively and reliably measure AP conduction velocity in skeletal muscle. We used remote extracellular bipolar electrodes to generate an alternating polarity electric field that initiates an AP at either end of the fiber. Using enzymatically dissociated flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) fibers and high-speed line scans, we determine the conduction velocity to be ∼0.4 m/s. We applied these methodologies to FDB fibers under elevated extracellular potassium conditions and confirmed that the conduction velocity is significantly reduced in elevated [K+]o. Because our recorded velocities for FDB fibers were much slower than previously reported for other muscle groups, we compared the conduction velocity in FDB fibers to that of extensor digitorum longus (EDL) fibers and measured a significantly faster velocity in EDL fibers than FDB fibers. As a basis for this difference in conduction velocity, we found a similarly higher level of expression of Na+ channels in EDL than in FDB fibers. In addition to measuring the conduction velocity, we can also measure the passive electrotonic potentials elicited by pulses by applying tetrodotoxin and have constructed a circuit model of a skeletal muscle fiber to predict passive polarization of the fiber by the field stimuli. Our predictions from the model fiber closely resemble the recordings acquired from in vitro assays. With these techniques, we can examine how various pathologies and mutations affect skeletal muscle AP propagation. Our work demonstrates the utility of using 1-(3-sulfonatopropyl)-4[β[2-(Di-n-octylamino)-6-naphtyl]vinyl]pyridinium betaine or mag-fluo-4 to noninvasively measure AP initiation and conduction.

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