Using optical and electrical methods, we document that diffusion in the cytoplasm of BL6 murine cardiomyocytes becomes restricted >20-fold as molecular weight increases from 30 to 2,000, roughly as expected for pores with porin channel dimensions. Bodipy-FL ATP diffuses >40-fold slower than in free water at 25°C. From several fluorophores analyzed, bound fluorophore fractions range from 0.1 for a 2 kD FITC-labeled polyethylene glycol to 0.93 for sulforhodamine. Unbound fluorophores diffuse at 0.5–8 × 10−7 cm2/s (5–80 μm2/s). Analysis of Na/K pump and veratridine-modified Na channel currents suggests that Na diffusion is nearly unrestricted at 35°C (time constant for equilibration with the pipette tip, ∼20 s). Using multiple strategies, we estimate that at 35°C, ATP diffuses four to eight times slower than in free water. To address whether restrictions are caused more by protein or membrane networks, we verified first that a protein gel, 10 g% gelatin, restricts diffusion with strong dependence on molecular weight. Solute diffusion in membrane-extracted cardiac myofilaments, confined laterally by suction into large-diameter pipette tips, is less restricted than in intact myocytes. Notably, myofilaments extracted similarly from skeletal (diaphragm) myocytes are less restrictive. Solute diffusion in myocytes with sarcolemma permeabilized by β-escin (80 µM) is similar to diffusion in intact myocytes. Restrictions are strain-dependent, being twofold greater in BL6 myocytes than in CD1/J6/129svJ myocytes. Furthermore, longitudinal diffusion is 2.5-fold more restricted in CD1/J6/129svJ myocytes lacking the mitochondrial porin, VDAC1, than in WT CD1/J6/129svJ myocytes. Thus, mitochondria networks restrict long-range diffusion while presumably optimizing nucleotide transfer between myofilaments and mitochondria. We project that diffusion restrictions imposed by both myofilaments and the outer mitochondrial membrane are important determinants of total free cytoplasmic AMP and ADP (∼10 μM). However, the capacity of diffusion to deliver ATP to myofilaments remains ∼100-fold greater than ATP consumption.

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