Cardiomyocyte growth and sarcomerogenesis at the intercalated disc

Amanda J Wilson, Roman Schoenauer, Elisabeth Ehler, Irina Agarkova, Pauline M Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Cardiomyocytes grow during heart maturation or disease-related cardiac remodeling. We present evidence that the intercalated disc (ID) is integral to both longitudinal and lateral growth: increases in width are accommodated by lateral extension of the plicate tread regions and increases in length by sarcomere insertion within the ID. At the margin between myofibril and the folded membrane of the ID lies a transitional junction through which the thin filaments from the last sarcomere run to the ID membrane and it has been suggested that this junction acts as a proto Z-disc for sarcomere addition. In support of this hypothesis, we have investigated the ultrastructure of the ID in mouse hearts from control and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) models, the MLP-null and a cardiac-specific β-catenin mutant, cΔex3, as well as in human left ventricle from normal and DCM samples. We find that the ID amplitude can vary tenfold from 0.2 μm up to a maximum of ~2 μm allowing gradual expansion during heart growth. At the greatest amplitude, equivalent to a sarcomere length, A-bands and thick filaments are found within the ID membrane loops together with a Z-disc, which develops at the transitional junction position. Here, also, the tops of the membrane folds, which are rich in αII spectrin, become enlarged and associated with junctional sarcoplasmic reticulum. Systematically larger ID amplitudes are found in DCM samples. Other morphological differences between mouse DCM and normal hearts suggest that sarcomere inclusion is compromised in the diseased hearts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-181
Number of pages17
JournalCellular and molecular life sciences : CMLS
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Animals
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated
  • Heart Ventricles
  • Humans
  • LIM Domain Proteins
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Myocytes, Cardiac
  • Sarcomeres
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum
  • Spectrin
  • Tropomyosin
  • beta Catenin


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