Stop the beat to see the rhythm: Excitation-contraction uncoupling in cardiac research

Luther M. Swift, Matthew W. Kay, Crystal M. Ripplinger, Nikki Gillum Posnack

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Optical mapping is an imaging technique that is extensively used in cardiovascular research, wherein parameter-sensitive fluorescent indicators are used to study the electrophysiology and excitation-contraction coupling of cardiac tissues. Despite many benefits of optical mapping, eliminating motion artifacts within the optical signals is a major challenge, as myocardial contraction interferes with the faithful acquisition of action potentials and intracellular calcium transients. As such, excitation-contraction uncoupling agents are frequently used to reduce signal distortion by suppressing contraction. When compared with other uncoupling agents, blebbistatin is the most frequently used, as it offers increased potency with minimal direct effects on cardiac electrophysiology. Nevertheless, blebbistatin may exert secondary effects on electrical activity, metabolism, and coronary flow, and the incorrect administration of blebbistatin to cardiac tissue can prove detrimental, resulting in erroneous interpretation of optical mapping results. In this "Getting It Right"perspective, we briefly review the literature regarding the use of blebbistatin in cardiac optical mapping experiments, highlight potential secondary effects of blebbistatin on cardiac electrical activity and metabolic demand, and conclude with the consensus of the authors on best practices for effectively using blebbistatin in optical mapping studies of cardiac tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1005-H1013
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Blebbistatin
  • Cardiac physiology
  • Excitation-contraction uncoupler
  • Optical mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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