Intercalated disc

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Overview

An intercalated disc is an undulating double membrane separating adjacent cells in cardiac muscle fibers. Intercalated discs support synchronized contraction of cardiac tissue. They can easily be visualized by a longitudinal section of the tissue.

Three types of membrane junctions exist within an intercalated disc—fascia adherens, macula adherens, and gap junctions.

  • Fascia adherens are anchoring sites for actin, and connects to the closest sarcomere.
  • Macula adherens stop separation during contraction by binding intermediate filaments joining the cells together also called a desmosome.
  • Gap junctions allow action potentials to spread between cardiac cells by permitting the passage of ions between cells, producing depolarization of the heart muscle.

When observing cardiac tissue through a microscope, intercalated discs are an identifying feature of cardiac muscle.

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