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Efficient pumping of the healthy left ventricle (LV) requires heterogeneities in mechanical function of individual cardiomyocytes (CM). Deformation of sub-endocardial (Endo) tissue is greater than that of sub-epicardial (Epi) regions. Papillary muscles (PM), often considered to be part of Endo tissue, show lower beat-by-beat length variation than Epi (or Endo) regions, even though they contribute to the shift in atrio-ventricular valve plane, which is essential for LV pump function. Thus far, no comparative assessment of CM mechanics for PM and LV free wall has been published. Here, we investigate contractility and cytosolic calcium concentration ([Ca2+]c) transients in rabbit single CM, freshly isolated from PM, Endo and Epi regions of the LV (free wall tissue was further subdivided into near-basal [Base], equatorial [Centre], and near-apical [Apex] parts). Functional parameters were measured in the absence of external mechanical loads (non-loaded), or during afterloaded (auxotonic) CM contractions, initiated from different levels of preload (diastolic axial stretch), using the carbon fibre technique. We note significant differences in time-course and amplitudes of sarcomere shortening between PM, Endo and Epi CM. In non-loaded CM, sarcomere shortening between regions compares as follows: Endo > Epi and Endo > PM. During afterloaded contractions, the slope of auxotonic tension-length relation and the Frank-Starling gain index (preload-dependent increase in tension and shortening) follow the sequence of Endo > Epi > PM. In terms of apico-basal gradients, time-to-peak sarcomere shortening was greater in Apex compared to Centre and Base in non-loaded CM only. Thus, CM from PM show the least pronounced preload-dependent activation of force across the LV regions assessed, while CM from Endo regions show the strongest response. This is in keeping with prior in situ observations on the smaller extent of PM shortening and their thus lower functional requirement for sensitivity to preload, compared to LV free wall. The here identified regional differences in cellular Frank-Starling responses illustrate the extent to which CM mechanical responses appear to be in keeping with in situ differences in mechanical demand.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology

Publication Date





127 - 136