SPOC (spontaneous oscillatory contraction) is a characteristic state of the contractile system of striated (skeletal and cardiac) muscle that exists between the states of relaxation and contraction. For example, Ca-SPOCs occur at physiological Ca2+ levels (pCa ∼6.0), whereas ADP-SPOC occurs in the virtual absence of Ca2+ (pCa ≥ 8; relaxing conditions in the presence of MgATP), but in the presence of inorganic phosphate (Pi) and a high concentration of MgADP. The concentration of Mg-ADP necessary for SPOC is nearly equal to or greater than the MgATP concentration for cardiac muscle and is several times higher for skeletal muscle. Thus, the cellular conditions for SPOC are broader in cardiac muscle than in skeletal muscle. During these SPOCs, each sarcomere in a myofibril undergoes length oscillation that has a saw-tooth waveform consisting of a rapid lengthening and a slow shortening phase. The lengthening phase of one half of a sarcomere is transmitted to the adjacent half of the sarcomere successively, forming a propagating wave (termed a SPOC wave). The SPOC waves are synchronized across the cardiomyocytes resulting in a visible wave of successive contractions and relaxations termed the SPOC wave. Experimentally, the SPOC period (and therefore the velocity of SPOC wave) is observed in demembranated cardiomyocytes and can be prepared from a wide range of animal hearts. These periods correlate well with the resting heartbeats of a wide range of mammals (rat, rabbit, dog, pig and cow). Preliminary experiments showed that the SPOC properties of human cardiomyocytes are similar to the heartbeat of a large dog or a pig. This correlation suggests that SPOCs may play a fundamental role in the heart. Here, we briefly summarize a range of SPOC parameters obtained experimentally, and relate them to a theoretical model to explain those characteristics. Finally, we discuss the possible significance of these SPOC properties in each and every heartbeat.
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