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  • The kinetics of spontaneous calcium oscillations and arrhythmogenesis in the in vivo heart during ischemia/reperfusion.

    3 April 2018

    BACKGROUND: The correlation between spontaneous calcium oscillations (S-CaOs) and arrhythmogenesis has been investigated in a number of theoretical and experimental in vitro models. There is an obvious lack of studies that directly investigate how the kinetics of S-CaOs correlates with a specific arrhythmia in the in vivo heart. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of the study is to investigate the correlation between the kinetics of S-CaOs and arrhythmogenesis in the intact heart using an experimental model of ischemia/reperfusion (I/R). METHODS: Perfused Langendorff guinea pig (GP) hearts were subjected to global I/R (10-15 minutes/10-15 minutes). The heart was stained with a voltage-sensitive dye (RH237) and loaded with a Ca2+ indicator (Rhod-2 AM). Membrane voltage (Vm) and intracellular calcium transient (Ca(i)T) were simultaneously recorded with an optical mapping system of two 16 x 16 photodiode arrays. S-CaOs were considered to arise from a localized focal site within the mapped surface when these preceded the associated membrane depolarizations by 2-15 ms. RESULTS: In 135 episodes of ventricular arrhythmias from 28 different GP experiments, 23 were linked to S-CaOs that were considered to arise from or close to the mapped epicardial window. Self-limited or sustained S-CaOs had a cycle length of 130-430 ms and could trigger propagated ventricular depolarizations. Self-limited S-CaOs that followed the basic beat action potential (AP)/Ca(i)T closely resembled phase 3 early afterdepolarizations. Fast S-CaOs could remain confined to a localized site (concealed) or exhibit varying conduction patterns. This could manifest as (1) an isolated premature beat (PB), bigeminal, or trigeminal rhythm; (2) ventricular tachycardia (VT) when a regular 2:1 conduction from the focal site develops; or (3) ventricular fibrillation (VF) when a complex conduction pattern results in wave break and reentrant excitation. CONCLUSIONS: The study examined, for the first time in the intact heart, the correlation between the kinetics of focal S-CaOs during I/R and arrhythmogenesis. S-CaOs may remain concealed or manifest as PBs, VT, or VF. A "benign looking" PB during I/R may represent "the tip of the iceberg" of an underlying potentially serious arrhythmic mechanism.

  • Contrasting effects of ischemia on the kinetics of membrane voltage and intracellular calcium transient underlie electrical alternans.

    6 March 2018

    Repolarization alternans has been considered a strong marker of electrical instability. The objective of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that ischemia-induced contrasting effects on the kinetics of membrane voltage and intracellular calcium transient (Ca(i)T) can explain the vulnerability of the ischemic heart to repolarization alternans. Ischemia-induced changes in action potential (AP) and Ca(i)T resulting in alternans were investigated in perfused Langendorff guinea pig hearts subjected to 10-15 min of global no-flow ischemia followed by 10-15 min of reperfusion. The heart was stained with 100 microl of rhod-2 AM and 25 microl of RH-237, and AP and Ca(i)T were simultaneously recorded with an optical mapping system of two 16 x 16 photodiode arrays. Ischemia was associated with shortening of AP duration (D) but delayed upstroke, broadening of peak, and slowed decay of Ca(i)T resulting in a significant increase of Ca(i)T-D. The changes in APD were spatially heterogeneous in contrast to a more spatially homogeneous lengthening of Ca(i)T-D. Ca(i)T alternans could be consistently induced with the introduction of a shorter cycle when the upstroke of the AP occurred before complete relaxation of the previous Ca(i)T and generated a reduced Ca(i)T. However, alternans of Ca(i)T was not necessarily associated with alternans of APD, and this was correlated with the degree of spatially heterogeneous shortening of APD. Sites with less shortening of APD developed alternans of both Ca(i)T and APD, whereas sites with greater shortening of APD could develop a similar degree of Ca(i)T alternans but slight or no APD alternans. This resulted in significant spatial dispersion of APD. The study shows that the contrasting effects of ischemia on the duration of AP and Ca(i)T and, in particular, on their spatial distribution explain the vulnerability of ischemic heart to alternans and the increased dispersion of repolarization during alternans.

  • Global organization of dynamics in oscillatory heterogeneous excitable media.

    29 March 2018

    An oscillatory heterogeneous excitable medium undergoes a transition from periodic target patterns to a bursting rhythm driven by the spontaneous initiation and termination of spiral waves as coupling or density is reduced. We illustrate these phenomena in monolayers of chick embryonic heart cells using calcium-sensitive fluorescent dyes. These results are modeled in a heterogeneous cellular automaton in which the neighborhood of interaction and cell density is modified. Parameters that give rise to bursting rhythms are organized in distinct zones in parameter space, leading to a global organization that should be applicable to the dynamics in a large class of excitable media.

  • The role of photon scattering in voltage-calcium fluorescent recordings of ventricular fibrillation.

    3 April 2018

    Recent optical mapping studies of cardiac tissue suggest that membrane voltage (V(m)) and intracellular calcium concentrations (Ca) become dissociated during ventricular fibrillation (VF), generating a proarrhythmic substrate. However, experimental methods used in these studies may accentuate measured dissociation due to differences in fluorescent emission wavelengths of optical voltage/calcium (V(opt)/Ca(opt)) signals. Here, we simulate dual voltage-calcium optical mapping experiments using a monodomain-Luo-Rudy ventricular-tissue model coupled to a photon-diffusion model. Dissociation of both electrical, V(m)/Ca, and optical, V(opt)/Ca(opt), signals is quantified by calculating mutual information (MI) for VF and rapid pacing protocols. We find that photon scattering decreases MI of V(opt)/Ca(opt) signals by 23% compared to unscattered V(m)/Ca signals during VF. Scattering effects are amplified by increasing wavelength separation between fluorescent voltage/calcium signals and respective measurement-location misalignment. In contrast, photon scattering does not affect MI during rapid pacing, but high calcium dye affinity can decrease MI by attenuating alternans in Ca(opt) but not in V(opt). We conclude that some dissociation exists between voltage and calcium at the cellular level during VF, but MI differences are amplified by current optical mapping methods.

  • The role of heterogeneities and intercellular coupling in wave propagation in cardiac tissue.

    12 December 2017

    Electrical heterogeneities play a role in the initiation of cardiac arrhythmias. In certain pathological conditions such as ischaemia, current sinks can develop in the diseased cardiac tissue. In this study, we investigate the effects of changing the amount of heterogeneity and intercellular coupling on wavefront stability in a cardiac cell culture system and a mathematical model of excitable media. In both systems, we observe three types of behaviour: plane wave propagation without breakup, plane wave breakup into spiral waves and plane wave block. In the theoretical model, we observe a linear decrease in propagation velocity as the number of heterogeneities is increased, followed by a rapid, nonlinear decrease to zero. The linear decrease results from the heterogeneities acting independently on the wavefront. A general scaling argument that considers the degree of system heterogeneity and the properties of the excitable medium is used to derive a dimensionless parameter that describes the interaction of the wavefront with the heterogeneities.

  • Dynamical mechanism for subcellular alternans in cardiac myocytes.

    19 March 2018

    RATIONALE: Cardiac repolarization alternans is an arrhythmogenic rhythm disturbance, manifested in individual myocytes as a beat-to-beat alternation of action potential durations and intracellular calcium transient magnitudes. Recent experimental studies have reported "subcellular alternans," in which distinct regions of an individual cell are seen to have counterphase calcium alternations, but the mechanism by which this occurs is not well understood. Although previous theoretical work has proposed a possible dynamical mechanism for subcellular alternans formation, no direct evidence for this mechanism has been reported in vitro. Rather, experimental studies have generally invoked fixed subcellular heterogeneities in calcium-cycling characteristics as the mechanism of subcellular alternans formation. OBJECTIVE: In this study, we have generalized the previously proposed dynamical mechanism to predict a simple pacing algorithm by which subcellular alternans can be induced in isolated cardiac myocytes in the presence or absence of fixed subcellular heterogeneity. We aimed to verify this hypothesis using computational modeling and to confirm it experimentally in isolated cardiac myocytes. Furthermore, we hypothesized that this dynamical mechanism may account for previous reports of subcellular alternans seen in statically paced, intact tissue. METHODS AND RESULTS: Using a physiologically realistic computational model of a cardiac myocyte, we show that our predicted pacing algorithm induces subcellular alternans in a manner consistent with theoretical predictions. We then use a combination of real-time electrophysiology and fluorescent calcium imaging to implement this protocol experimentally and show that it robustly induces subcellular alternans in isolated guinea pig ventricular myocytes. Finally, we use computational modeling to demonstrate that subcellular alternans can indeed be dynamically induced during static pacing of 1D fibers of myocytes during tissue-level spatially discordant alternans. CONCLUSION: Here we provide the first direct experimental evidence that subcellular alternans can be dynamically induced in cardiac myocytes. This proposed mechanism may contribute to subcellular alternans formation in the intact heart.

  • Spiral wave generation in heterogeneous excitable media.

    3 April 2018

    As the coupling in a heterogeneous excitable medium is reduced, three different types of behavior are encountered: plane waves propagate without breaking up, plane waves break up into spiral waves, and plane waves block. We illustrate these phenomena in monolayers of chick embryonic heart cells using calcium sensitive fluorescent dyes. Following the addition of heptanol, an agent that reduces the electrical coupling between cells, we observe breakup of spiral waves. These results are modeled in a heterogeneous cellular automaton model in which the neighborhood of interaction is modified.

  • Genome of the marsupial Monodelphis domestica reveals innovation in non-coding sequences.

    5 April 2018

    We report a high-quality draft of the genome sequence of the grey, short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica). As the first metatherian ('marsupial') species to be sequenced, the opossum provides a unique perspective on the organization and evolution of mammalian genomes. Distinctive features of the opossum chromosomes provide support for recent theories about genome evolution and function, including a strong influence of biased gene conversion on nucleotide sequence composition, and a relationship between chromosomal characteristics and X chromosome inactivation. Comparison of opossum and eutherian genomes also reveals a sharp difference in evolutionary innovation between protein-coding and non-coding functional elements. True innovation in protein-coding genes seems to be relatively rare, with lineage-specific differences being largely due to diversification and rapid turnover in gene families involved in environmental interactions. In contrast, about 20% of eutherian conserved non-coding elements (CNEs) are recent inventions that postdate the divergence of Eutheria and Metatheria. A substantial proportion of these eutherian-specific CNEs arose from sequence inserted by transposable elements, pointing to transposons as a major creative force in the evolution of mammalian gene regulation.

  • Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog.

    4 April 2018

    Here we report a high-quality draft genome sequence of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), together with a dense map of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across breeds. The dog is of particular interest because it provides important evolutionary information and because existing breeds show great phenotypic diversity for morphological, physiological and behavioural traits. We use sequence comparison with the primate and rodent lineages to shed light on the structure and evolution of genomes and genes. Notably, the majority of the most highly conserved non-coding sequences in mammalian genomes are clustered near a small subset of genes with important roles in development. Analysis of SNPs reveals long-range haplotypes across the entire dog genome, and defines the nature of genetic diversity within and across breeds. The current SNP map now makes it possible for genome-wide association studies to identify genes responsible for diseases and traits, with important consequences for human and companion animal health.