The effect of hypertonicity on the electrical properties of vertebrate myocardial cells was studied in ventricular muscle fibers of guinea pig, cat, frog, and chicken. The latter two species do not have a T-tubule system, whereas the former two do. In hypertonic solutions (2 x isotonic) produced by addition of sucrose or excess of NaCl, cell diameter decreased and there was a slight hyperpolarization and decrease in action potential overshoot. In guinea pig and cat, the hypertonic solution caused a decrease in input resistance and the plateau of the action potential to disappear in some of the cells; contractions of the entire ventricle also became depressed. These effects were reversed by returning the muscle fibers to isotonic solution. Addition of 5 mM SrCl2 to the hypertonic solution also caused the plateau component and contraction to reappear. In frog and chick cells, loss of the plateau component and contraction never occurred in hypertonic solution, and input resistance increased. Urea and glycerol hyperosmolarity (2 x) caused no loss of the plateau component or contraction. If the frog and chicken ventricular, and guinea pig atrial myocardial cells (all of which lack T tubules) were to serve as an adequate control for possible effects of hypertonicity on the surface membrane and on contractile proteins, then the results suggest that swelling of the T tubules of mammalian myocardial cells leads to loss of the plateau component.

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