We analyzed by Fotonic Sensor, a fiber-optic displacement measurement instrument, the effects of heptanol on synchronized contraction of primary neonatal rat cardiac myocytes cultured at confluent density. We also examined the effect of heptanol on the changes in gap junctional intercellular communication by using the microinjection dye transfer method, and on intercellular Ca2+ fluctuation by confocal laser scanning microscopy of myocytes loaded with the fluorescent Ca2+ indicator fluo 3. In addition, we studied expression, phosphorylation, and localization of the major cardiac gap junction protein connexin 43 (Cx43) using immunofluorescence and Western blotting. At Day 6 of culture, numerous myocytes exhibited spontaneous, synchronous contractions, excellent dye coupling, and synchronized intracellular Ca2+ fluctuations. We treated the cells with 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 mmol/liter heptanol. With 1.5 mmol/liter heptanol, we could not observe significant effects on spontaneous contraction of myocytes. At 3.0 mmol/liter, the highest concentration used in the current experiment, heptanol inhibited synchronous contractions and even after washing out of heptanol, synchronous contraction was not rapidly recovered. On the other hand, at the intermediate concentrations of 2.0 and 2.5 mmol/liter, heptanol reversely inhibited synchronized contraction, gap junctional intercellular communication, and synchronization of intracellular Ca2+ fluctuations in the myocytes without preventing contraction and changes of intracellular Ca2+ in individual cells. Brief exposure (5-20 min) to heptanol (2.0 mmol/liter) did not cause detectable changes in the expression, phosphorylation, or localization of Cx43, despite strong inhibition of gap junctional intercellular communication. These results suggest that gap junctional intercellular communication plays an important role in synchronous intracellular Ca2+ fluctuations, which facilitate synchronized contraction of cardiac myocytes.