Purkinje fibers

Last revised by Domenico Nicoletti on 18 Jul 2023

Purkinje fibers are a network of specialized, glycogen-rich cells with extensive gap junctions. The glycogen can be metabolized anaerobically which may make Purkinje cells more resistant to hypoxia than working myocardial cells.

These cells are located on the subendocardial surface of the ventricular walls and rapidly transmit cardiac action potentials from the atrioventricular tract to the myocardium of the ventricles for coordinated ventricular contraction (ventricular systole) thus blood is moved from the right and left ventricles to the artery respectively lung and aorta.

The conduction velocity of electrical impulses is much higher in Purkinje fibers (2–3 m/s) than in myocardial cells (0.3–0.4 m/s) and the fast propagation is partially due to the different connexions in the gap junctions in these cells.

Purkinje fibers are implicated in both the maintenance and the initiation of tachyarrhythmias.

History and etymology

Jan Evangelista Purkinje (1787–1869) was a Czech anatomist and physiologist. He discovered in 1839 a net of grey, flat and gelatinous fibers in the subendocardium of the heart.

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