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      Connexins in the Heart: Regulation, Function and Involvement in Cardiac Disease


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          Connexins are a family of transmembrane proteins that play a key role in cardiac physiology. Gap junctional channels put into contact the cytoplasms of connected cardiomyocytes, allowing the existence of electrical coupling. However, in addition to this fundamental role, connexins are also involved in cardiomyocyte death and survival. Thus, chemical coupling through gap junctions plays a key role in the spreading of injury between connected cells. Moreover, in addition to their involvement in cell-to-cell communication, mounting evidence indicates that connexins have additional gap junction-independent functions. Opening of unopposed hemichannels, located at the lateral surface of cardiomyocytes, may compromise cell homeostasis and may be involved in ischemia/reperfusion injury. In addition, connexins located at non-canonical cell structures, including mitochondria and the nucleus, have been demonstrated to be involved in cardioprotection and in regulation of cell growth and differentiation. In this review, we will provide, first, an overview on connexin biology, including their synthesis and degradation, their regulation and their interactions. Then, we will conduct an in-depth examination of the role of connexins in cardiac pathophysiology, including new findings regarding their involvement in myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury, cardiac fibrosis, gene transcription or signaling regulation.

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          The biology, function, and biomedical applications of exosomes

          The study of extracellular vesicles (EVs) has the potential to identify unknown cellular and molecular mechanisms in intercellular communication and in organ homeostasis and disease. Exosomes, with an average diameter of ~100 nanometers, are a subset of EVs. The biogenesis of exosomes involves their origin in endosomes, and subsequent interactions with other intracellular vesicles and organelles generate the final content of the exosomes. Their diverse constituents include nucleic acids, proteins, lipids, amino acids, and metabolites, which can reflect their cell of origin. In various diseases, exosomes offer a window into altered cellular or tissue states, and their detection in biological fluids potentially offers a multicomponent diagnostic readout. The efficient exchange of cellular components through exosomes can inform their applied use in designing exosome-based therapeutics.
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            Exosome secreted by MSC reduces myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury.

            Human ESC-derived mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-conditioned medium (CM) was previously shown to mediate cardioprotection during myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury through large complexes of 50-100 nm. Here we show that these MSCs secreted 50- to 100-nm particles. These particles could be visualized by electron microscopy and were shown to be phospholipid vesicles consisting of cholesterol, sphingomyelin, and phosphatidylcholine. They contained coimmunoprecipitating exosome-associated proteins, e.g., CD81, CD9, and Alix. These particles were purified as a homogeneous population of particles with a hydrodynamic radius of 55-65 nm by size-exclusion fractionation on a HPLC. Together these observations indicated that these particles are exosomes. These purified exosomes reduced infarct size in a mouse model of myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. Therefore, MSC mediated its cardioprotective paracrine effect by secreting exosomes. This novel role of exosomes highlights a new perspective into intercellular mediation of tissue injury and repair, and engenders novel approaches to the development of biologics for tissue repair. Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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              Myocardial ischaemia–reperfusion injury and cardioprotection in perspective

              Despite the increasing use and success of interventional coronary reperfusion strategies, morbidity and mortality from acute myocardial infarction are still substantial. Myocardial infarct size is a major determinant of prognosis in these patients. Therefore, cardioprotective strategies aim to reduce infarct size. However, a perplexing gap exists between the many preclinical studies reporting infarct size reduction with mechanical and pharmacological interventions and the poor translation into better clinical outcomes in patients. This Review revisits the pathophysiology of myocardial ischaemia-reperfusion injury, including the role of autophagy and forms of cell death such as necrosis, apoptosis, necroptosis and pyroptosis. Other cellular compartments in addition to cardiomyocytes are addressed, notably the coronary microcirculation. Preclinical and clinical research developments in mechanical and pharmacological approaches to induce cardioprotection, and their signal transduction pathways, are discussed. Additive cardioprotective interventions are advocated. For clinical translation into treatments for patients with acute myocardial infarction, who typically are of advanced age, have comorbidities and are receiving several medications, not only infarct size reduction but also attenuation of coronary microvascular obstruction, as well as longer-term targets including infarct repair and reverse remodelling, must be considered to improve patient outcomes. Future clinical trials must focus on patients who really need adjunct cardioprotection, that is, those with severe haemodynamic alterations.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Int J Mol Sci
                Int J Mol Sci
                International Journal of Molecular Sciences
                23 April 2021
                May 2021
                : 22
                : 9
                : 4413
                [1 ]Cardiovascular Diseases Research Group, Department of Cardiology, Vall d’Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR), Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus, Vall d’Hebron Hospital Universitari, Passeig Vall d’Hebron 119-129, 08035 Barcelona, Spain; joseant.msq@ 123456gmail.com (J.A.S.); lvalls@ 123456ibecbarcelona.eu (L.V.-L.); marta.consegal@ 123456vhir.org (M.C.)
                [2 ]Departament de Medicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
                [3 ]Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red sobre Enfermedades Cardiovasculares (CIBERCV), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, 28029 Madrid, Spain
                [4 ]Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red (CIBER) de Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, 28029 Madrid, Spain
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: antonio.rodriguez.sinovas@ 123456vhir.org (A.R.-S.); nacho.ferreira@ 123456secardiologia.es (I.F.-G.); Tel.: +34-93-4894184 (A.R.-S.)
                Author information
                © 2021 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 16 March 2021
                : 20 April 2021

                Molecular biology
                connexin,cx43,gap junction,hemichannel,mitochondria,nucleus,heart,cardiomyocyte
                Molecular biology
                connexin, cx43, gap junction, hemichannel, mitochondria, nucleus, heart, cardiomyocyte


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