The gradient model of the rabbit sinoatrial node
Dobrzynski H., Lei M., Jones SA., Lancaster MK., Boyett MR.
The sinoatrial (SA) node is a complex and inhomogeneous tissue in terms of cell morphology and electrical activity. There are two models of the cellular organisation of the sinoatrial node: the gradient and mosaic models. According to the gradient model there is a gradual transition in morphology and electrical properties of SA node cells from the centre to the periphery of the SA node. In the mosaic model, there is a variable mix of atrial and sinoatrial node cells from the centre to the periphery. This review focuses on the cellular organisation of the rabbit sinoatrial node in terms of the expression of connexin (Cx40, Cx43 and Cx45), L-type Ca2+ channel and Na+ -Ca2+ exchanger proteins. These immunocytochemical data, together with morphological and electrophysiological data, obtained from the intact sinoatrial node and isolated sinoatrial node cells support the gradient model of the cellular organisation of the SA node. The complex organisation of the sinoatrial node is important for the normal functioning of the sinoatrial node: (i) it allows the sinoatrial node to drive the surrounding hyperpolarized atrial muscle without being suppressed by it; (ii) it helps the pacemaker activity of the sinoatrial node continue under a wide range of physiological and pathophysiological conditions; (iii) it helps protect the sinoatrial node from reentrant arrhythmias.