Spatial heterogeneity in the properties of ion channels generates spatial dispersion of ventricular repolarization, which is modulated by gap junctional coupling. However, it is possible to simulate conditions in which local differences in excitation properties are electrophysiologically silent and only play a role in pathological states. We use a numerical procedure on the Luo-Rudy phase 1 model of the ventricular action potential (AP1) in order to find a modified set of model parameters which generates an action potential profile (AP2) almost identical to AP1. We show that, although the two waveforms elicited from resting conditions as a single AP are very similar and belong to membranes sharing similar passive electrical properties, the modified membrane generating AP2 is a weaker current source than the one generating AP1, has different sensitivity to up/down-regulation of ion channels and to extracellular potassium, and a different electrical restitution profile. We study electrotonic interaction of AP1- and AP2- type membranes in cell pairs and in cable conduction, and find differences in source-sink properties which are masked in physiological conditions and become manifest during intercellular uncoupling or partial block of ion channels, leading to unidirectional block and spatial repolarization gradients. We provide contour plot representations that summarize differences and similarities. The present report characterizes an inverse problem in cardiac cells, and strengthen the recently emergent notion that a comprehensive characterization and validation of cell models and their components are necessary in order to correctly understand simulation results at higher levels of complexity.
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