A method has been developed for localizing sites of cholinesterase activity in rat cardiac muscle by electron microscopy. The method utilizes thiocholine esters as substrates, and is believed to be dependent on the reduction of ferricyanide to ferrocyanide by thiocholine released by enzymatic activity. The ferrocyanide thus formed is captured by copper to form fine, electron-opaque deposits of copper ferrocyanide, which sharply delineate sites of enzymatic activity at the ultrastructural level. Cholinesterase activity in formalin-fixed heart muscle was localized: (a) in longitudinal elements of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, but not in the T, or transverse, elements; and (b) in the A band, with virtually no activity noted in the M band, or in the H zone. The I band was also negative. No activity was detected in the sarcolemma, or in invaginations of the sarcolemma at the level of the Z band. The perinuclear element of the sarcoplasmic (endoplasmic) reticulum was frequently strongly positive. Activity at all sites was completely abolished by omitting the substrates, or by inhibition with eserine 10-4 M and diisopropylfluorophosphate 10-5 M. Eserine 10-5 M completely inhibited reaction in the sarcoplasmic reticulum, and virtually abolished that in the A band. These observations, together with the use of the relatively specific substrates and suitable controls to eliminate non-enzymatic staining, indicate that cholinesterase activity was being demonstrated. The activity in rat heart against different substrates was that of non-specific cholinesterases, in accordance with biochemical data. The activity in the A band was considered to be probably due to myosincholinesterase. It is proposed that the localization of cholinesterases in myocardium at the ultrastructural level should be taken into account in considering the possible functions of these myocardial enzymes, and it is hoped that knowledge of their localization will open up new avenues of approach in considering their physiological role in myocardium, which at present is not definitely known.

This content is only available as a PDF.