Spatial regulation of intracellular pH in multicellular strands of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes.
Swietach P., Camelliti P., Hulikova A., Kohl P., Vaughan-Jones RD.
AIMS: Intracellular pH (pHi), an important modulator of cardiac function, is normally regulated to within narrow limits (7.1-7.2). In adult ventricular cell pairs, localized cellular pHi disturbances are removed by sarcolemmal acid/base transporters, but can also be dissipated (diluted) across gap junctions, aboard mobile buffers such as CO2/HCO3- and histidine-containing dipeptides (HCDPs). In the present work, we test this model of spatial pHi regulation in multicellular strands of neonatal rat ventricular myocytes. METHODS AND RESULTS: We confocally image pHi (intracellular fluorescence emitted from the pH dye carboxy-SNARF-1) in multicellular (>500 microm long, approximately 30 microm wide) cultured strands of electrically coupled, neonatal rat ventricular myocytes. Activity of sarcolemmal Na+/H+ exchange and Na+-HCO3- co-transport resembles that in adult cells. Localized photolytic H+ uncaging from intracellular 2-nitrobenzaldehyde, in the presence of CO2/HCO3- buffer, triggers considerable passive H+ spread along a strand, thus helping to dissipate the acid load. Inhibition of gap junctions (with alpha-glycyrrhetinic acid) truncates the spread, indicating they are conduits for local intracellular H+ flux. Without CO2/HCO3- buffer, longitudinal H+ mobility is reduced by approximately 90%, indicating that intracellular and cell-to-cell H+ flux relies far less on intrinsic mobile buffers (e.g. HCDPs) in neonates than in adults. This is consistent with five-fold lower HCDP levels in neonatal, compared to adult, ventricular tissue, and also with measurements of a lower intrinsic (non-CO2/HCO3-) H+ buffering capacity in neonatal strands compared with freshly isolated adult cells. CONCLUSION: We conclude that mobile buffers and gap junctions are key spatial controllers of pHi in cardiac tissue, helping to maintain a myocardial pHi syncitium. In neonatal tissue, intracellular H+ movement is CO2/HCO3- dependent, while adult tissue relies increasingly on intrinsic dipeptides that provide additional spatial pHi control, appropriate for the developmental increase in myocyte size.