Fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia observed in clinical practice. Understanding of the mechanisms
underlying its initiation and maintenance remains incomplete. Functional re-entries are potential drivers of the arrhythmia. Two main concepts are still debated, the “leading circle” and the “spiral wave or rotor” theories. The homogeneous subclone of the HL1 atrial-derived cardiomyocyte cell line, HL1-6, spontaneously exhibits re-entry on a microscopic scale due to its slow conduction velocity and the presence of triggers, making it possible to examine re-entry at the cellular level.
We therefore investigated the re-entry cores in cell monolayers through the use of fluorescence optical
mapping at high spatiotemporal resolution in order to obtain insights into the mechanisms of re-entry.
Re-entries in HL1-6 myocytes required at least two triggers and a minimum colony area to initiate (3.5 to
6.4 mm2). After electrical activity was completely stopped and re-started by varying the extracellular K+ concentration, re-entries never returned to the same location while 35% of triggers re-appeared at the same position. A conduction delay algorithm also allows visualisation of the core of the re-entries. This work has revealed that the core of re-entries is conduction blocks constituted by lines and/or groups of cells rather than the round area assumed by the other concepts of functional re-entry. This highlights the importance of experimentation at the microscopic level in the study of re-entry mechanisms.