Relaxation of isolated ventricular cardiomyocytes by a voltage-dependent process

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Science  12 Aug 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4867, pp. 823-825
DOI: 10.1126/science.3406740

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Cell contraction and relaxation were measured in single voltage-clamped guinea pig cardiomyocytes to investigate the contribution of sarcolemmal Na+-Ca2+ exchange to mechanical relaxation. Cells clamped from -80 to 0 millivolts displayed initial phasic and subsequent tonic contractions; caffeine reduced or abolished the phasic and enlarged the tonic contraction. The rate of relaxation from tonic contractions was steeply voltage-dependent and was significantly slowed in the absence of a sarcolemmal Na+ gradient. Tonic contractions elicited in the absence of a Na+ gradient promptly relaxed when external Na+ was applied, reflecting activation of Na+-Ca2+ exchange. It appears that a voltage-dependent Na+-Ca2+ exchange can rapidly mechanically relax mammalian heart muscle.