Myocardial connective tissue probably provides passive support for regulating heart tensile strength and stiffness and ultimately for controlling heart mechanics through its endomysial part. However, endomysial collagen micro-arrangement is still a matter of debate. In order to define the fine distribution of left ventricle endomysial collagen, we applied the NaOH-scanning electron microscopy (SEM) maceration method (one of the techniques of choice for studying collagen micro-arrangement) to rabbit heart. Gomori-reticulum staining was used for correlated light microscopy (LM) observations. The SEM-NaOH method allowed isolation of collagen by removing other extracellular matrix components and cells and preserved collagen structure and position. Endomysial collagen appeared arranged in laminae that delimited the lacunae that were left empty by macerated myocytes and small vessels (mostly capillaries). These laminae were formed by reticular fibers, as confirmed by LM observations of Gomorireticulum-stained samples, and were organized in irregularly meshed networks made of thin (single) and thick (composed) filaments. In longitudinal views, collagen laminae extended the entire length of lacunae. In transversal views, the cut surface of the laminae appeared to be made of collagen bundles. These observations provide an updated microanatomical view of endomysial collagen distribution, which integrates previous studies. This model is based on the evidence that collagen laminae enveloped the surface of small vessels and myocytes. Thus, a type of myocyte-myocyte or capillary-myocyte "laminar connection" anchored to the entire cell length here is emphasized, rather than a type of "strut connection" anchored to defined loci, as usually described. This structure explains better how endomysium may provide the necessary support for heart compliance and protection against overstretch
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