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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe intercalated discs and gap junctions
  • Describe a desmosome

Cardiac muscle tissue is only found in the heart. Highly coordinated contractions of cardiac muscle pump blood into the vessels of the circulatory system. Similar to skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated and organized into sarcomeres, possessing the same banding organization as skeletal muscle ( [link] ). However, cardiac muscle fibers are shorter than skeletal muscle fibers and usually contain only one nucleus, which is located in the central region of the cell. Cardiac muscle fibers also possess many mitochondria and myoglobin, as ATP is produced primarily through aerobic metabolism. Cardiac muscle fibers cells also are extensively branched and are connected to one another at their ends by intercalated discs. An intercalated disc    allows the cardiac muscle cells to contract in a wave-like pattern so that the heart can work as a pump.

Cardiac muscle tissue

This image is a micrograph of cardiac muscle cells.
Cardiac muscle tissue is only found in the heart. LM × 1600. (Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012)

View the University of Michigan WebScope at (External Link) to explore the tissue sample in greater detail.

Intercalated discs are part of the sarcolemma and contain two structures important in cardiac muscle contraction: gap junctions and desmosomes. A gap junction forms channels between adjacent cardiac muscle fibers that allow the depolarizing current produced by cations to flow from one cardiac muscle cell to the next. This joining is called electric coupling, and in cardiac muscle it allows the quick transmission of action potentials and the coordinated contraction of the entire heart. This network of electrically connected cardiac muscle cells creates a functional unit of contraction called a syncytium. The remainder of the intercalated disc is composed of desmosomes. A desmosome    is a cell structure that anchors the ends of cardiac muscle fibers together so the cells do not pull apart during the stress of individual fibers contracting ( [link] ).

Cardiac muscle

This image shows the structure of the cardiac muscle. A small image of the heart is shown on the top left of the figure and then a magnified view of the cardiac muscle is shown, with the nucleus and the cardiac muscle fiber labeled. A further magnification shows the structure of the intercalated discs with the desmosome and gap junction.
Intercalated discs are part of the cardiac muscle sarcolemma and they contain gap junctions and desmosomes.

Contractions of the heart (heartbeats) are controlled by specialized cardiac muscle cells called pacemaker cells that directly control heart rate. Although cardiac muscle cannot be consciously controlled, the pacemaker cells respond to signals from the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to speed up or slow down the heart rate. The pacemaker cells can also respond to various hormones that modulate heart rate to control blood pressure.

The wave of contraction that allows the heart to work as a unit, called a functional syncytium, begins with the pacemaker cells. This group of cells is self-excitable and able to depolarize to threshold and fire action potentials on their own, a feature called autorhythmicity    ; they do this at set intervals which determine heart rate. Because they are connected with gap junctions to surrounding muscle fibers and the specialized fibers of the heart’s conduction system, the pacemaker cells are able to transfer the depolarization to the other cardiac muscle fibers in a manner that allows the heart to contract in a coordinated manner.

Another feature of cardiac muscle is its relatively long action potentials in its fibers, having a sustained depolarization “plateau.” The plateau is produced by Ca ++ entry though voltage-gated calcium channels in the sarcolemma of cardiac muscle fibers. This sustained depolarization (and Ca ++ entry) provides for a longer contraction than is produced by an action potential in skeletal muscle. Unlike skeletal muscle, a large percentage of the Ca ++ that initiates contraction in cardiac muscles comes from outside the cell rather than from the SR.

Chapter review

Cardiac muscle is striated muscle that is present only in the heart. Cardiac muscle fibers have a single nucleus, are branched, and joined to one another by intercalated discs that contain gap junctions for depolarization between cells and desmosomes to hold the fibers together when the heart contracts. Contraction in each cardiac muscle fiber is triggered by Ca ++ ions in a similar manner as skeletal muscle, but here the Ca ++ ions come from SR and through voltage-gated calcium channels in the sarcolemma. Pacemaker cells stimulate the spontaneous contraction of cardiac muscle as a functional unit, called a syncytium.

Questions & Answers

master gland Kon si h
kajal Reply
Pituitary gland
KUNDAN
pituitary gland because it give harmonies and control other gland
ABDULLAH
glands often secrete hormones which play an important role in maintaining homeostasis.
KUNDAN
pituitary gland
Aftab
pituitary gland is master gland because it present in biran and secrtehormones and play other gland of human body and function its gland so that also called master gland.
ABDULLAH
pituitary glandis the master gland of our body
Nadeem
how do you study for A&P? lab and lecture?
Aubrey Reply
When one is suffering from motion sickness what area of the brain may trigger emesis?
amy Reply
that is the sign of stroke. if the patient have a stroke. the left side of body is weakness, the affected right of cerebrum but if right side of the body is weakness surely in left side!
Larry
thank you sooo much bro
Fatima Reply
helloo
Sentamu
Fatima hw a u
Sentamu
hii
Shubham
any one elaborate fr me foramens of the skull and features which they transmit
Sentamu
icant undrestand plz
zahruuzh Reply
try to read I hop you will understand
state and explain 20 radiology uses
ILYAS Reply
what are chemicals in anatomy and physiology?
Mike Reply
what can I do to find it easy for me in anatomy and physiology course
Mike
study up on the basics of the periodic chart, learn bones and muscles attachments, and learn muscles. Those take the longest to memorize. After that it should be a little easier.
Toni
what are the two types of body cells
Jennifer Reply
what is malnutrition
Claire
malnutrition refers to faulty nutrition resulting from malabsorption,poor diet or overeating. Sometimes too these food do not contain all the six food nutrients in their right proportion.
Yakubu
thank you
Claire
welcome
Yakubu
Will u be malnourished?
Baigwa
gud
Budumari
What's the difference between radiology and radiology
gabriel
Nothing! Radiology it means the study or using of radiation in medical science it can be 1.diagnose or treatment diagnosed radiology! x- ray. ultrasound. ct-scan. mammogram. MRI. 2. treatmen- radiation oncology, like Cobalt 60. and nuclear medicine
Larry
what is X-ray?
Nissar
X-ray is type of light that make it possible to see inside any object. as human body
KUNDAN
How the nervous system develops
ayiesher Reply
From the cells at the back of an embryo
Mma
breifly explain anatomy of thorax
Hadiza Reply
How many region the rib is divided
Konneh
how many bon of human being
Nura
206
John
how to study for the skeletal system
ryaisha
and anatomy
ryaisha
I really need sources immediately
ryaisha
I printed out all the different bones. Put them in the see through protective sheaths and got dry erase markers. I could right on them and erase to help me learn to spell the names of markings and bones.
Toni
Or go to a book store, Barnes and Noble(doesn't have to be this) and they have coloring books for anatomy. $16. Really helpful.
Toni
okay thanks and are what study tools you use to study the materials and get a better understanding
ryaisha
*what are
ryaisha
hiii
Roopa
I prefer diagrams, pictures that lay out each step with the information in each step. For Example: how action potential creates muscles to move. A pictured diagram gives me a better understanding of how each piece plays a role in each step of the process.
Toni
Also for basics, such as memorizing vocab. Flash cards are great. Don't become discouraged if you don't get them all right the first times through. The more you go through them, your brain will remember pieces of information from each and help you to pull out the information 😉
Toni
okay thanks
ryaisha
what is the functions of the lips in human
Momboi Reply
could I say sensation?
Sovilace
kissing
Obrian
for protection
Omar
Lips assist in speech and eating
Cindy
Too many easy questions. Which bones are the axial and appendicular? What are the abbreviations for TEE, TTE, AED, A-Mode, B-Mode, and LTH? What is the difference between hypothalamus and thalamus? Where is the parathyroid located? How many True Ribs do we have?
Sovilace Reply
Transesophageal echocardiography Transthoracic Echocardiography automated external defibrillator brightnees mode Los Hermanos Taverna
Inam
what is anatomy
okello Reply
anatomy is scientific study of body structures and how they relate to each other
Skeater
Are there other functions of the nucleolus apart from synthesis of RNA and formation of ribosomes
Peninah Reply
plays a role in cell response to stress
airiz
what is angle of auscultation
Bryan Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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