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      Electrotonic coupling of excitable and nonexcitable cells in the heart revealed by optogenetics

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          De novo cardiomyocytes from within the activated adult heart after injury.

          A significant bottleneck in cardiovascular regenerative medicine is the identification of a viable source of stem/progenitor cells that could contribute new muscle after ischaemic heart disease and acute myocardial infarction. A therapeutic ideal--relative to cell transplantation--would be to stimulate a resident source, thus avoiding the caveats of limited graft survival, restricted homing to the site of injury and host immune rejection. Here we demonstrate in mice that the adult heart contains a resident stem or progenitor cell population, which has the potential to contribute bona fide terminally differentiated cardiomyocytes after myocardial infarction. We reveal a novel genetic label of the activated adult progenitors via re-expression of a key embryonic epicardial gene, Wilm's tumour 1 (Wt1), through priming by thymosin β4, a peptide previously shown to restore vascular potential to adult epicardium-derived progenitor cells with injury. Cumulative evidence indicates an epicardial origin of the progenitor population, and embryonic reprogramming results in the mobilization of this population and concomitant differentiation to give rise to de novo cardiomyocytes. Cell transplantation confirmed a progenitor source and chromosome painting of labelled donor cells revealed transdifferentiation to a myocyte fate in the absence of cell fusion. Derived cardiomyocytes are shown here to structurally and functionally integrate with resident muscle; as such, stimulation of this adult progenitor pool represents a significant step towards resident-cell-based therapy in human ischaemic heart disease.
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            Animal cells connected by nanotubes can be electrically coupled through interposed gap-junction channels.

            Tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) are recently discovered conduits for a previously unrecognized form of cell-to-cell communication. These nanoscale, F-actin-containing membrane tubes connect cells over long distances and facilitate the intercellular exchange of small molecules and organelles. Using optical membrane-potential measurements combined with mechanical stimulation and whole-cell patch-clamp recording, we demonstrate that TNTs mediate the bidirectional spread of electrical signals between TNT-connected normal rat kidney cells over distances of 10 to 70 μm. Similar results were obtained for other cell types, suggesting that electrical coupling via TNTs may be a widespread characteristic of animal cells. Strength of electrical coupling depended on the length and number of TNT connections. Several lines of evidence implicate a role for gap junctions in this long-distance electrical coupling: punctate connexin 43 immunoreactivity was frequently detected at one end of TNTs, and electrical coupling was voltage-sensitive and inhibited by meclofenamic acid, a gap-junction blocker. Cell types lacking gap junctions did not show TNT-dependent electrical coupling, which suggests that TNT-mediated electrical signals are transmitted through gap junctions at a membrane interface between the TNT and one cell of the connected pair. Measurements of the fluorescent calcium indicator X-rhod-1 revealed that TNT-mediated depolarization elicited threshold-dependent, transient calcium signals in HEK293 cells. These signals were inhibited by the voltage-gated Ca(2+) channel blocker mibefradil, suggesting they were generated via influx of calcium through low voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels. Taken together, our data suggest a unique role for TNTs, whereby electrical synchronization between distant cells leads to activation of downstream target signaling.
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              Fibroblast network in rabbit sinoatrial node: structural and functional identification of homogeneous and heterogeneous cell coupling.

              Cardiomyocytes form a conducting network that is assumed to be electrically isolated from nonmyocytes in vivo. In cell culture, however, cardiac fibroblasts can contribute to the spread of excitation via functional gap junctions with cardiomyocytes. To assess the ability of fibroblasts to form gap junctions in vivo, we combine in situ detection of connexins in rabbit sinoatrial node (a tissue that is particularly rich in fibroblasts) with identification of myocytes and fibroblasts using immunohistochemical labeling and confocal microscopy. We distinguish two spatially distinct fibroblast populations expressing different connexins: fibroblasts surrounded by other fibroblasts preferentially express connexin40, whereas fibroblasts that are intermingled with myocytes largely express connexin45. Functionality of homogeneous and heterogeneous cell coupling was investigated by dye transfer in sinoatrial node tissue explants. These studies reveal spread of Lucifer yellow, predominantly along extended threads of interconnected fibroblasts (probably via connexin40), and occasionally between neighboring fibroblasts and myocytes (probably via connexin45). Our findings show that cardiac fibroblasts form a coupled network of cells, which may be functionally linked to myocytes in rabbit SAN.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                December 20 2016
                December 20 2016
                : 113
                : 51
                : 14852-14857
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1611184114
                5187735
                27930302
                e3cbbf86-ed80-4eb6-a069-95f2facf76a8
                © 2016

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