The morphology of the developing canine conducting system: Bundle branch and Purkinje cell architecture from birth to week 12 of life

Marianne J. Legato, Melissa Weintraub, Gloria M. McCord, Yoshiyuki Morikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This is a qualitative and quantitative study of dog bundle branch and Purkinje cell development from day 0 to week 12 of life; we correlate the morphologic data with changes observed in the functional properties of developing dog Purkinje tissue. The bundle branch itself has a roughly cylindrical shape and is surrounded by a collagen sheath covered with endocardium. Within the bundle, Purkinje cells are packed closely together in fascicles distributed evenly around a central artery. Cross-sectional area doubles in the right bundle and increases 5-fold in the left bundle system between day 0 and week 12 of life. About one third of the bundle by volume is Purkinje tissue; the rest is extracellular space containing an increasing amount of collagen as the animal ages. Purkinje cell cross-sectional area is constant during the first week of life, but its length doubles and the cell changes from a relatively round to a more cylindrical shape. Between day 7 and week 12, cell diameter doubles; Purkinje cell surface area increases 5-fold and its volume almost 10-fold. As a consequence, the surface to volume ratio halves and approaches the value reported for adult dogs by week 12 of life. The percent of the intercalated disc occupied by nexal junctions virtually doubles by week 12, the same period over which Purkinje fiber conduction velocity increases. The disc itself becomes less dominant as the cell enlarges; the total percent of sarcolemma involved in its formation decreases by a fourth and has achieved the adult value by week 12 of life. As this happens, the percent of cell membrane facing on clefts increases almost 6-fold, so that the total percent of sarcolemma facing on small spaces (approximately 340Å wide) is constant over the age period studied. The paucity of clefts in newborn tissue compared with the value reported for the adult dog may help explain the relative lack of responsiveness to extracellular potassium concentration of the resting membrane potential described for fetal Purkinje tissue. Within the Purkinje cell itself, the percent by volume occupied by mitochondria remains relatively constant over the age span studied, while sarcomeric mass increases 3-fold over the same period of time; these data are consonant with the relative resistance of this tissue to hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1063-1076
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Bundle branch morphology
  • Neonatal canine conducting system
  • Purkinje cell development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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