The technique of extracellular space tracing with horseradish peroxidase is adapted for labeling the transverse tubular system (T system) in rat heart. In rat ventricular muscle the T system shows extensive branching and remarkable tortuosity. The T system can only be defined operationally, since it does not display specific morphological features throughout its entire structure. Owing to branching of the T system, a sizable proportion of the apposition between the T system and L system (or closed system) occurs at the level of longitudinal branches of the T system and is not restricted to the Z line region. The regions of apposition between the T system and L system are analyzed in rat ventricular muscle and skeletal muscle (diaphragm) and compared with the intercellular tight junctions (nexuses) of heart muscle by the use of a photometric method. The over-all thickness of the nexus is significantly smaller than that of T-L junctions in both cardiac and skeletal muscles. The thickness of the membranes of the T and L systems are not significantly different in the two muscles, but the gap between both membranes is larger in the heart. In atrial muscle the following two types of cells are found: (a) those cells with a well-developed T system in which the tubular diameter is quite uniform and the orientation predominantly longitudinal and, (b) cells with no T system, but with a well-developed L system. Atrial cells possessing a T system are richly provided with specific granules and show little micropinocytotic activity, whereas cells devoid of T system show intense micropinocytotic activity and few specific granules. The possible functional implications of these findings are discussed.

This content is only available as a PDF.