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J Anat. 1986 Apr;145:133-42.

Node-like cells in the myocardial layer of the pulmonary vein of rats: an ultrastructural study.

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Department of Anatomy, Niigata University School of Medicine, Japan.


The myocardial layer of the pulmonary vein of adult rats was examined by electron microscopy. Among ordinary myocardial cells resembling those of the atrial myocardium, clear cells with structural features similar to those of sinus node cells were identified. They were distributed in the intrapulmonary, preterminal portion of the pulmonary vein. They appeared singly or in small groups among the ordinary myocardial cells. Their cytoplasm was characterised by a paucity of myofilaments, irregular disposition of myofilament bundles, small and oval mitochondria, absence of atrial specific granules and a wide cytoplasmic matrix between intracellular organelles. The intercalated discs of node-like cells were composed of small junctional specialisations. Nerve fibres containing small and large vesicles with and without dense cores were juxtaposed to the node-like cells over an intercellular space of more than 200 nm. Taking into consideration physiological data, the possibility is discussed that the node-like cells may have a potential pacemaking activity and represent an ectopic pacemaker centre in the pulmonary vein.

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