Thin collagenous septa in cardiac muscle

Authors

  • Dr. Paul C. Dolber,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Pediatrics, Pathology, and Physiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710
    • Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Department of Pediatrics, Box 3090, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710
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  • Madison S. Spach

    1. Departments of Pediatrics, Pathology, and Physiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710
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Abstract

Light and electron microscopy were used to study the structure and distribution of thin collagenous septa (sheets) in dog and rabbit cardiac muscle to determine whether they, like thick collagenous septa, could affect electrical impulse propagation. Generally, thin septa (0.2–0.5 μm) ensheathed myocytes or groups of myocytes for short distances and thicker septa partially or completely ensheathed groups of myocytes for long distances (up to several mm); together, thin, and thick septa divided the myocardial mass into myocyte cords (funicles) of 10–30 μm diameter. Septal architecture varied not only between regions and within regions at different ages but also within single bundles, precluding the assumption that the architecture found in one bundle can be applied to another. Electron microscopy demonstrated that thick septa consisted of many tightly packed collagen fibrils, often with distinct layers running at different angles; thin septa consisting largely of circumferential collagen fibrils. Thin septa in dog ventricular papillary muscle generally contained few and widely spaced collagen fibrils, whereas thin septa in dog atrial Bachmann's bundle contained tightly packed collagen fibrils. In either site, thin septa were rarely breached by nexuses and thus marked sites where lateral intercellular electrical coupling was unlikely. Serial 7 μm cross sections of dog Bachmann's bundle stained by a modification of the picrosirius red technique showed that thin septa sometimes persisted uninterrupted over several myocyte lengths. The results provide evidence that thin septa comprimised of tightly packed collagen fibrils may significantly modify impulse propagation transverse to the longitudinal axis of the myocytes.

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