Spatial distribution of connexin43, the major cardiac gap junction protein, in the developing and adult rat heart.
The developmental appearance and spatial distribution pattern of gap junctions were studied in prenatal and adult rat hearts. Gap junctions were visualized immunohistochemically with an antibody raised against a unique cytoplasmic epitope of connexin43, and the spatial distribution pattern was determined by three-dimensional reconstruction. The results demonstrate that from embryonic day 13 onward, connexin43 becomes detectable immunohistochemically in the myocardium of atria and ventricles. No expression is initially detectable in the myocardium of the sinus venosus, the sinoatrial node, the posterior wall of the atrium and pulmonary veins, the interatrial septum, the atrioventricular canal, including atrioventricular node and bundle, the interventricular septum, and the outflow tract. The developmental increase in the density of gap junctions in atria and ventricles of prenatal hearts correlates well with the reported developmental increase in conduction velocity. Whereas connexin43 becomes expressed in the derivatives of the sinus venosus (except for the sinoatrial node) and in the subepicardial layer of the ventricular free wall shortly before birth, it remains undetectable in the atrioventricular node and bundle and the proximal part of the ventricular conduction tissue, even in the adult heart. The apparent absence of an abundant expression of connexin43 at a location with a supposedly high conduction velocity (i.e., the atrioventricular bundle and bundle branches) is unexpected. These observations were confirmed in studies of the adult mouse heart, which showed, in addition, that connexin32 is not expressed in any part of the heart.
- Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association