Wenckebach periodicity in single atrioventricular nodal cells from the rabbit heart.
Previous studies have suggested that Wenckebach periodicity in cardiac tissues may occur because of discontinuous propagation across junctional areas in which there is high intercellular resistivity or different cell types. Under these conditions, the impulse may stop altogether at a given junction, or may renew its propagation but only after a step delay imposed by the diastolic time-dependent recovery in the excitability of cells distal to that junction. Accordingly, Wenckebach periodicity in the atrioventricular node may be explained in terms of electrotonically mediated delay in the activation of the nodal cells. To test this hypothesis, we have studied recovery of excitability, and susceptibility to rate-dependent activation failure in single myocytes isolated from the adult rabbit atrioventricular node. Recordings were obtained by using the patch technique in the whole-cell, current clamp configuration. Repetitive stimulation of single atrioventricular nodal myocytes with depolarizing current pulses of critical amplitude yielded frequency-dependent stimulus response patterns that ranged from 1:1, through various Wenckebachlike periodicities (e.g., 5:4 and 4:3) to 2:1 and 3:1. Both typical and atypical Wenckebach structures were demonstrated, as well as "complex" patterns (e.g., reverse Wenckebach or alternating Wenckebach) previously ascribed to multiple levels of block. The diastolic recovery of excitability curve, determined by application of repetitive stimuli at cycle lengths that were longer than the action potential duration, showed a monotonic function with a refractory period outlasting the action potential duration (i.e., postrepolarization refractoriness). Abbreviation of the stimulation cycle length to values below those of the action potential duration revealed the existence of a period of supernormal excitability during the repolarizing phase of the action potential. In either case, the stimulus response patterns obtained were a direct consequence of the shape of the recovery of excitability curve. The monotonic portion of the recovery curve was fitted to an empirical equation that when iterated reproduced the stimulus response patterns observed in the atrioventricular nodal cell. Our data demonstrate that recovery of excitability after an action potential is indeed a function of the diastolic interval, and that this slow process sets the conditions for the development of Wenckebach periodicity in the atrioventricular node.
- Copyright © 1990 by American Heart Association