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      Regulatory Effect of Connexin 43 on Basal Ca 2+ Signaling in Rat Ventricular Myocytes

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      PLoS ONE

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          It has been found that gap junction-associated intracellular Ca 2+ [Ca 2+] i disturbance contributes to the arrhythmogenesis and hyperconstriction in diseased heart. However, whether functional gaps are also involved in the regulation of normal Ca 2+ signaling, in particular the basal [Ca 2+] i activities, is unclear.

          Methods and Results

          Global and local Ca 2+ signaling and gap permeability were monitored in cultured neonatal rat ventricular myocytes (NRVMs) and freshly isolated mouse ventricular myocytes by Fluo4/AM and Lucifer yellow (LY), respectively. The results showed that inhibition of gap communication by heptanol, Gap 27 and flufenamic acid or interference of connexin 43 (Cx43) with siRNA led to a significant suppression of LY uptake and, importantly, attenuations of global Ca 2+ transients and local Ca 2+ sparks in monolayer NRVMs and Ca 2+ sparks in adult ventricular myocytes. In contrast, overexpression of rat-Cx43 in NRVMs induced enhancements in the above measurements, and so did in HEK293 cells expressing rat Cx43. Additionally, membrane-permeable inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP 3 butyryloxymethyl ester) and phenylephrine, an agonist of adrenergic receptor, could relieve the inhibited Ca 2+ signal and LY uptake by gap uncouplers, whereas blockade of IP 3 receptor with xestospongin C or 2-aminoethoxydiphenylborate mimicked the effects of gap inhibitors. More importantly, all these gap-associated effects on Ca 2+ signaling were also found in single NRVMs that only have hemichannels instead of gap junctions. Further immunostaining/immunoblotting single myocytes with antibody against Cx43 demonstrated apparent increases in membrane labeling of Cx43 and non-junctional Cx43 in overexpressed cells, suggesting functional hemichannels exist and also contribute to the Ca 2+ signaling regulation in cardiomyocytes.


          These data demonstrate that Cx43-associated gap coupling plays a role in the regulation of resting Ca 2+ signaling in normal ventricular myocytes, in which IP 3/IP 3 receptor coupling is involved. This finding may provide a novel regulatory pathway for mediation of spontaneous global and local Ca 2+ activities in cardiomyocytes.

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          Most cited references 37

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          Intercellular calcium signaling in astrocytes via ATP release through connexin hemichannels.

          Astrocytes are capable of widespread intercellular communication via propagated increases in intracellular Ca(2+) concentration. We have used patch clamp, dye flux, ATP assay, and Ca(2+) imaging techniques to show that one mechanism for this intercellular Ca(2+) signaling in astrocytes is the release of ATP through connexin channels ("hemichannels") in individual cells. Astrocytes showed low Ca(2+)-activated whole-cell currents consistent with connexin hemichannel currents that were inhibited by the connexin channel inhibitor flufenamic acid (FFA). Astrocytes also showed molecular weight-specific influx and release of dyes, consistent with flux through connexin hemichannels. Transmembrane dye flux evoked by mechanical stimulation was potentiated by low Ca(2+) and was inhibited by FFA and Gd(3+). Mechanical stimulation also evoked release of ATP that was potentiated by low Ca(2+) and inhibited by FFA and Gd(3+). Similar whole-cell currents, transmembrane dye flux, and ATP release were observed in C6 glioma cells expressing connexin43 but were not observed in parent C6 cells. The connexin hemichannel activator quinine evoked ATP release and Ca(2+) signaling in astrocytes and in C6 cells expressing connexin43. The propagation of intercellular Ca(2+) waves in astrocytes was also potentiated by quinine and inhibited by FFA and Gd(3+). Release of ATP through connexin hemichannels represents a novel signaling pathway for intercellular communication in astrocytes and other non-excitable cells.
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            Connexins regulate calcium signaling by controlling ATP release.

             Rui-Juan Li,  S. Lin,  J. Kang (1998)
            Forced expression of gap junction proteins, connexins, enables gap junction-deficient cell lines to propagate intercellular calcium waves. Here, we show that ATP secretion from the poorly coupled cell lines, C6 glioma, HeLa, and U373 glioblastoma, is potentiated 5- to 15-fold by connexin expression. ATP release required purinergic receptor-activated intracellular Ca2+ mobilization and was inhibited by Cl- channel blockers. Calcium wave propagation also was reduced by purinergic receptor antagonists and by Cl- channel blockers but insensitive to gap junction inhibitors. These observations suggest that cell-to-cell signaling associated with connexin expression results from enhanced ATP release and not, as previously believed, from an increase in intercellular coupling.
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              ATP release through connexin hemichannels and gap junction transfer of second messengers propagate Ca2+ signals across the inner ear.

              Extracellular ATP controls various signaling systems including propagation of intercellular Ca(2+) signals (ICS). Connexin hemichannels, P2x7 receptors (P2x7Rs), pannexin channels, anion channels, vesicles, and transporters are putative conduits for ATP release, but their involvement in ICS remains controversial. We investigated ICS in cochlear organotypic cultures, in which ATP acts as an IP(3)-generating agonist and evokes Ca(2+) responses that have been linked to noise-induced hearing loss and development of hair cell-afferent synapses. Focal delivery of ATP or photostimulation with caged IP(3) elicited Ca(2+) responses that spread radially to several orders of unstimulated cells. Furthermore, we recorded robust Ca(2+) signals from an ATP biosensor apposed to supporting cells outside the photostimulated area in WT cultures. ICS propagated normally in cultures lacking either P2x7R or pannexin-1 (Px1), as well as in WT cultures exposed to blockers of anion channels. By contrast, Ca(2+) responses failed to propagate in cultures with defective expression of connexin 26 (Cx26) or Cx30. A companion paper demonstrates that, if expression of either Cx26 or Cx30 is blocked, expression of the other is markedly down-regulated in the outer sulcus. Lanthanum, a connexin hemichannel blocker that does not affect gap junction (GJ) channels when applied extracellularly, limited the propagation of Ca(2+) responses to cells adjacent to the photostimulated area. Our results demonstrate that these connexins play a dual crucial role in inner ear Ca(2+) signaling: as hemichannels, they promote ATP release, sustaining long-range ICS propagation; as GJ channels, they allow diffusion of Ca(2+)-mobilizing second messengers across coupled cells.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                27 April 2012
                02 May 2012
                : 7
                : 4
                Department of Pharmacology, School of Chemical Biology & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
                Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata, Italy
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: DL. Performed the experiments: CL QM XJ. Analyzed the data: CL QM XY XJ. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: PX. Wrote the paper: DL XY.

                Li et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 10
                Research Article
                Gene Expression
                Model Organisms
                Animal Models
                Molecular Cell Biology
                Cellular Types
                Signal Transduction
                Signaling Cascades
                Calcium Signaling Cascade
                Cardiovascular Imaging
                Cardiovascular Pharmacology



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