• Open Access

Heterocellular communication in the heart: electron tomography of telocyte–myocyte junctions

Authors

  • Mihaela Gherghiceanu,

    1. ‘Victor Babeş’ National Institute of Pathology, Bucharest, Romania
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  • Laurentiu M. Popescu

    1. ‘Victor Babeş’ National Institute of Pathology, Bucharest, Romania
    2. Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, ‘Carol Davila’ University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, Romania
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Correspondence to: Prof. Laurentiu M. POPESCU
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, ‘Carol Davila’ University of Medicine and Pharmacy, PO BOX 35-29, Bucharest, Romania
Fax: +40 21 312 4885
E-mail: lpopescu@jcmm.org

Abstract

Myocardium is composed of two main cell populations: cardiomyocytes (CMs) and interstitial cells (e.g. fibroblasts, immunoreactive cells, capillaries). However, very recently we have showed that a novel type of interstitial cell called telocytes (TCs) does exist in epi-, myo- and endocardium. They have very long and thin telopodes (Tp) formed by alternating podomeres and podoms. Heterocellular communication between TCs and CMs it is supposed to occur by shed vesicles and close apposition. If TCs have to play a role in cardiac physiology it is expected to develop direct and unambiguous contacts with CMs. Because a clear membrane-to-membrane junction has not been reported by electron microscopy we have investigated the heterocellular communication in the mouse heart by electron tomography. This advanced technique showed that small dense structures (10–15 nm nanocontacts) directly connect TCs with CMs. More complex and atypical junctions could be observed between TCs and CMs at the level of intercalated discs. This study proves that TCs and CMs are directly connected and might represent a ‘functional unit’.

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