Dimensions of compartments and membrane surfaces in the intact rabbit heart of importance in studies on intramyocardial transfer of blood-borne substances

Gerrit van der Vusse*, Fons Verheyen, Robert S. Reneman, Theo Arts

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cardiac studies on the uptake, storage and intramyocardial transfer of blood-borne substances require detailed information on the geometric ultrastructural dimensions of myocardial compartments and parts thereof, and the membranes separating these compartments. Such a specific ultrastructural set of data of the heart is yet lacking. In the present study, we quantitatively assessed these dimensions in glutaraldehyde-perfusion fixed rabbit hearts by means of histological and tailored mathematical techniques.We showed the true ellipsoid nature of the myocardial capillary cross section and estimated the mean capillary diameter d(cap). After correction for the ellipsoid shape, dcap was found to be 5.21 +/- 1.41 mu m. Effective widths of the endothelial cell and the pericapillary interstitium (is1), dimensions of importance in diffusion, amounted to 187 +/- 7 and 160 +/- 10 nm, respectively. The fractional volume of the large vessels (arteries and veins larger than 10 mu m), capillaries, endothelium, is1, cardiomyocytes, non-pericapillary interstitium is2, t-tubular compartment and interstitial cells amounted on average to 5.92%, 9.36%, 1.83%, 1.94%, 73.07%, 5.97%, 0.95% and 0.96%, respectively, of total myocardial volume, defined as the cardiac tissue volume, the large blood vessels included. Normalized to total myocardial volume, the surface area of the luminal and abluminal endothelial membranes and of the cardiomyocyte membrane opposing the endothelial cells amounted to 75.2 +/- 5.5x10(3), 82.2 +/- 6.0x10(3) and 89.1 +/- 6.5x10(3) m(2)/m(3), respectively.The present study provides quantitative information about ultrastructural dimensions of the adult rabbit heart, among others, of importance for studies on cardiac uptake, and intramyocardial transfer and storage of blood-supplied substances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-62
JournalHistology and Histopathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Rabbit heart
  • Ultrastructure
  • Endothelium
  • Interstitial compartment
  • Cardiomyocyte

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