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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

describe the urine formation
Sarah Reply
Body water
Kashif
the urine formation is described as the wrist fluid that comes out of body
Hellen
glomerular filtration, reabsorption, secretion.
Maria
nice
Hussain
good Hellen kehn
Dr
is it wast fluids or wrist?
Baldwin
how many bones does human have?
Akech
Good
Opeyemi
206
Emmi
about the urine formation Baldwin asked that is it wast fluid or wrist that comes out from the body
Frimpong
what is single cell
Jimmy Reply
A unicellular organism, also known as a single-celled organism, is an organism that consists of a single cell, unlike a multicellular organism that consists of multiple cells. ... Many eukaryotes are multicellular, but many are unicellular such as protozoa, unicellular algae, and unicellular fungi.
Noor
Why is important to check if the blood if compatible before transfusion ?
Kelvin Reply
to avoid cases of intravenous clupping in blood which can be fatal....bcos blood is incopartable
John
Thank you.good answer
Kelvin
what are the clinical significant of thyroid gland
Jennifer Reply
what is a metabolism?
Kheth Reply
Metabolism is the sum total of all the chemical processes in the body. It is divided into an anabolic(building up) and catabolic(breaking down) metabolism)
Jonas
Oh ok
King
sir what is constructive and destructive metabolism
Soul
is anyone
Soul
Describe the system s that maintain the internal environment of a human body
Nora Reply
an organism is a living being that had a cellular structure and that can independently perform all physiological functions needed for life.
Nwecho Reply
a tissue is a group of similar cells that work together to perform a particular function
Nwecho
chemical level, cellular level, tissue level, organs level, organ systems, organisms
Nwecho Reply
they're reproduction but also produces hormones dus they're endocrine system
Nwecho
cells are smallest independent functional unit of a living organism
Nwecho
an organ is an anatomically distinct structure of the body composed of two or more tissue
Nwecho
an organ system is a group of organs that work together to perform a major function.
Nwecho
Structural Organization of the human body.
Tammy
What is a cavity
Isaac Reply
Permanently damaged areas in teeth that develop into tiny holes
MASLAH
what is meant by epithelial tissue
Zahid
What is the difference between regional anatomy and systematic anatomy?
Andrew Reply
Regional anatomy is the study of the interrelationships of all of the structures in a specific body region, such as the abdomen. ... In contrast, systemic anatomy is the study of the structures that make up a discrete body system—that is, a group of structures that work together to perform a unique
Tammy
Pls is that all
Petra
regional anatomy studies structures that contribute to specific body region example the thoracic region while systematic anatomy studies structures that contribute to specific body systems example respiratory system
Nwecho
so meaning of dissect
Mary Reply
it is the dismembering or the cutting of living organism to study the anatomical structure of it body
Kwasi
what are lymph nodes
Memory Reply
what is the best book that shows unit 1 about cell unit 2 about tissue unit 3 about embroyology
Abraham Reply
2
Hellen
to understand structure of body able to understand function of system. to understand how to build human body and function
Dereje Reply
hi
Neela
to determine body structures
Petra Reply
to know the use of each and every part of our body
Petra
to understand how our body structures work to support our lives
Petra
Is this a question?
Tammy
So what was the question?
Thamie
All the body work together to make the whole organism life possible
Kwasi
what is the importance of conversation
Hellen
To be able to identify the parts of the body and their functions
Hodasi
ok
Hodasi
Ideas are shared during conversation also informations are given
Hodasi
it reduces cost
Kwasi

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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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