The developing cardiac myocyte: Maturation of excitability and excitation-contraction coupling

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The study of cardiac myocyte (CM) differentiation, development, and maturation is of interest for several compelling reasons. First, mechanisms of development are of fundamental biological interest. Second, congenital malformation of the heart may be related to CM dysfunction during embryonic/fetal development. Third, adult myocardium in a variety of diseased states re-expresses a fetal-like gene program. Fourth, the mature heart cannot readily regenerate itself. Thus, cell replacement therapy is an emerging treatment paradigm. Among the obstacles for the realization of cell replacement therapy is our incomplete understanding of the function during CM maturation. This is crucial in the potential use of embryonic stem (ES) cell-derived CMs as a cell source. Although much progress has been realized with mouse ES-CMs, our understanding of human counterparts is scant. Here we discuss key molecular underpinnings of excitability and excitation-contraction coupling in developing mouse heart. We focus on the Ca channel multimeric complex and Ca handling. We compare mouse embryonic physiology to that previously described in mouse ES-CMs and draw parallels and highlight distinctions to human ES-CMs. During mouse embryonic and fetal maturation, the L-type Ca channel current (ICa,L) predominates, but embryonic/fetal ICa,L has distinct properties from mature ICa,L. In addition T-type Ca current (ICa,T) present in the fetus is not present in the adult. It is neither ethical nor practical to experiment with live human embryonic/fetal CMs for ICa and Ca handling studies, but we can draw inferences from human heart cell function based on studies of human ES-CMs, using the parallels noted between mouse embryonic heart cells and mouse ES-CMs.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInteractive and Integrative Cardiology
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Oct 2006

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)0077-8923
ISSN (Electronic)1749-6632


  • Calcium channel
  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Heart development
  • Ion channel
  • Voltage-gated ion channel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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