The subcellular distribution of sarcolemmal dihydropyridine receptor (DHPR) and sarcoplasmic reticular triadin and Ca2+ release channel/ryanodine receptor (RyR) was determined in adult rabbit ventricle and atrium by double labeling immunofluorescence and laser scanning confocal microscopy. In ventricular muscle cells the immunostaining was observed primarily as transversely oriented punctate bands spaced at approximately 2-micron intervals along the whole length of the muscle fibers. Image analysis demonstrated a virtually complete overlap of the staining patterns of the three proteins, suggesting their close association at or near dyadic couplings that are formed where the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) is apposed to the surface membrane or its infoldings, the transverse (T-) tubules. In rabbit atrial cells, which lack an extensive T-tubular system, DHPR-specific staining was observed to form discrete spots along the sarcolemma but was absent from the interior of the fibers. In atrium, punctate triadin- and RyR-specific staining was also observed as spots at the cell periphery and image analysis indicated that the three proteins were co-localized at, or just below, the sarcolemma. In addition, in the atrial cells triadin- and RyR-specific staining was observed to form transverse bands in the interior cytoplasm at regularly spaced intervals of approximately 2 micron. Electron microscopy suggested that this cytoplasmic staining was occurring in regions where substantial amounts of extended junctional SR were present. These data indicate that the DHPR codistributes with triadin and the RyR in rabbit ventricle and atrium, and furthermore suggest that some of the SR Ca2+ release channels in atrium may be activated in the absence of a close association with the DHPR.

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