Cardiac cells with distinctive electrophysiological and morphological features were found at the junctional region between Purkinje and ventricular cells of the dog heart. The electrophysiological exploration of these "transitional" cells revealed action potentials markedly different in configuration from those generated by Purkinje or by ventricular cells. The impaled cardiac cells which generated transitional action potentials were identified in serial sections and studied with the light and the electron microscopes. The transitional cells were found to be characterized cytologically by: (a) their subendocardial location, (b) their small diameter, (c) the absence of T system and sarcoplasmic reticulum, and (d) the lack of intercalated discs under the light microscope and the sparsity of specialized intercellular junctions under the electron microscope. Purkinje, transitional, and ventricular cells were found to be joined by gap junctions permeable to lanthanum. A quantitative difference in the extent and distribution of specialized intercellular junctions may be one of the factors responsible for the slow velocity of conduction characteristic of the Purkinje-ventricular junctional region.

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