Spatial and temporal variations in local spike propagation in the myometrium of the 17-day pregnant rat

W. J E P Lammers, K. Arafat, A. El-Kays, T. Y. El-Sharkawy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Detailed spatial analysis of propagation of individual action potential was performed during spontaneous bursts of activity in the isolated 17-day pregnant rat myometrium. Use was made of high-resolution mapping with simultaneous recordings from 240 extracellular electrodes. Positioning of the electrode assembly by itself did not have any adverse effects, and no differences were found in the period or duration of spontaneous bursts recorded with and without the electrode assembly touching the tissue. The spread of propagation of individual action potentials was reconstructed at several moments during myometrial spike bursts. Both the direction and the sequence of activation of the myometrium were found to be highly variable and depended on 1) the level and spatial dispersion of excitability and 2) whether conduction occurred predominantly in the longitudinal or the circumferential direction. Furthermore, conduction was frequently complicated by the spontaneous occurrence of 1) lines of conduction block, 2) focal sites of pacemaking, or 3) merging of two or more wavelets into a single wave. In contrast, when the myometrium was divided into small segments, activity became much more regular, and both the location of the pacemaker and the direction of propagation were much more stable than in the whole myometrium. In conclusion, spontaneous spatial variations in local spike propagation at the preterm stage could provide for the necessary asynchrony in activation and play a role in the prevention of forceful contractions and premature labor.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number5 36-5
Publication statusPublished - 1994


  • action potentials
  • conduction
  • mapping
  • pregnancy
  • smooth muscle
  • uterus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Physiology


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