Gap junction protein connexin40 is preferentially expressed in vascular endothelium and conductive bundles of rat myocardium and is increased under hypertensive conditions.
Gap junction channels consisting of connexin protein mediate electrical coupling between cardiac cells. Expression of two connexins, connexin40 (Cx40) and connexin43 (Cx43), has been studied in ventricular myocytes from normal and hypertensive rats. Polyclonal affinity-purified rabbit antibodies to Cx43 and Cx40 have been used for immunohistochemical analysis on frozen sections from rat heart. These studies revealed coexpression of Cx43 and Cx40 in ventricular myocytes. In addition, Cx40 is preferentially expressed in three distinct regions: first, in the endothelial layer of the heart blood vessels but not in the smooth muscle layer of the arteries; second, in the ventricular conductive myocardium, particularly in the atrioventricular bundle and bundle branches, where Cx43 is not observed; and third, in the myocyte layers close to the ventricular cavities. These results suggest that Cx40 is preferentially expressed in the fast conducting areas of myocardial tissue. Expression of both Cx40 and Cx43 was also found in immunoblots from normal and hypertensive rat myocardiocytes. Under hypertensive conditions (ie, in spontaneous hypertensive rats and in transgenic rats that exhibit hypertension due to expression of an exogenous renin gene), we found a 3.1-fold increase in Cx40 expression, compared with normal myocardium. Furthermore, we detected a 3.3-fold decrease in Cx43 protein level in transgenic hypertensive rats. The coexpression of Cx40 and Cx43 proteins in rat myocytes, their spatial distribution, and the increased amount of Cx40 protein during cardiac hypertrophy suggest that Cx40 may be involved in mediating fast conduction under normal and pathological conditions. The increased expression of Cx40 in hypertrophic heart may be a compensatory mechanism to increase conduction velocity.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association