Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Ecto-5′-nucleotidase is anchored at the outer surface of cell membranes and thus its reaction product adenosine is released into the extracellular space. Extracellular adenosine displays via specific receptors a wide range of physiological effects in heart. There are discrepancies in the literature concerning the distribution of ecto-5′-nucleotidase in heart. Since we suspected that these may be due to technical problems, in the present study on ecto-5′-nucleotidase in rat heart we attempted to circumvent some technical pitfalls. Good preservation of the tissue with open capillary lumina, providing a clear identification of endothelium, was obtained by perfusion fixation. At the light microscopic level, the distribution of ecto-5′-nucleotidase studied by enzyme histochemistry and immunohistochemistry using a monoclonal and a polyclonal antibody yielded congruent results. The enzyme was rather homogeneously distributed throughout the myocardium, with a slightly higher incidence of stained cells in the outer thirds than in the inner third of the wall. Consistently high levels of ecto-5′-nucleotidase were seen only in interstitial cells. The walls of large vessels and heart muscle cells were constantly negative for ecto-5′-nucleotidase. The endothelia of capillaries were mostly negative but a few profiles occasionally displayed a weak immunoreaction. The interstitial cells staining positive for ecto-5′-nucleotidase could be identified as pericytes and as fibroblasts according to their shapes and localizations. The immunoreactivity of fibroblasts was confirmed by electron microscopy. These data indicate that adenosine may be formed extracellularly in the interstitium of the myocardium, where it would have direct access to important targets such as myocytes, arterioles and nerve endings.
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