Intercalated discs: multiple proteins perform multiple functions in non-failing and failing human hearts

Biophys Rev. 2009 Mar;1(1):43. doi: 10.1007/s12551-008-0007-y. Epub 2009 Jan 22.


The intercalated disc (ICD) occupies a central position in the transmission of force, electrical continuity and chemical communication between cardiomyocytes. Changes in its structure and composition are strongly implicated in heart failure. ICD functions include: maintenance of electrical continuity across the ICD; physical links between membranes and the cytoskeleton; intercellular adhesion; maintenance of ICD structure and function; and growth. About 200 known proteins are associated with ICDs, 40% of which change in disease. We systemically reviewed cardiac immunohistochemical data on the Human Protein Atlas (HPA) web site, ExPASy protein binding data and published papers on ICDs. We identified 43 proteins not previously reported, and confirmed 37 proteins that have previously been described. In addition, 102 proteins not present on the HPA web site but were described in ICDs in the literature. We group these into clusters that demonstrate functionally interactive groups of proteins demonstrating that ICDs play a key role in cardiomyocyte function.

Keywords: Cardiac intercalated disc; Changes in disease; Functional protein groups; Human heart; Immunohistochemistry.

Publication types

  • Review