The heart is susceptible to arrhythmia initiation when cell-cell coupling is reduced to levels near or below the """"""""margin of safety"""""""" for successful propagation. A high incidence of cardiac arrhythmias is associated with acute myocardial ischemia and reperfusion. The long term goal of the proposed studies is to define the contribution of gap junctions to the increased susceptibility of the heart to arrhythmia initiation during and following ischemia. Towards this end, molecular and electrophysiological techniques will be used to study quantitatively, the incidence and functionality of gap junctions during perturbations that simulate changes occurring during ischemia, e.g. alterations of second messenger levels and accumulation of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA). Results obtained in cultured heart cells will be compared to those obtained in A7r5 cells, a cell line that expresses the same gap junction protein as heart, i.e. Cx43, as well as Cx40. A7r5 cells whose expression of Cx43 or Cx40 has been blocked using antisense to the corresponding mRNA will also be examined. Comparison of these cells types will allow us to determine 1) whether unitary conductance and gating of gap junction channels is regulated in a tissue or connexin specific fashion, and 2) whether the strategies cells use to control the extent to which they are coupled are tissue or connexin dependent. The hypotheses to be tested build on several observations. 1) Heart, which expresses Cx43, exhibits an increase in junctional conductance when either protein kinase A or C is stimulated, whereas A7r5 cells, which express Cx43 and Cx40, exhibit a decrease. 2) Heart, which expresses Cx43 as 95pS channels, is uncoupled by oleic acid (OA), whereas A7r5 cells which express Cx40 as 65 pS channels and Cx43 as predominantly 134 pS cells, are only partially uncoupled by OA. 3) The Cx43-134 pS channel in the A7r5 cells appears to be resistant to closure by OA suggesting that its sensitivity to OA differs from that of Cx43-95pS and from Cx40 channels. 4) Elimination of functional Cx43 channels induces A7r5 cells to up-regulate Cx40 expression. These observations lead us to hypothesize that protein kinases A and C influence channel number, channel unitary conductance and channel open time probability, and that OA influences channel number and channel open time probability. The effects of these agents on channel number occur with a significantly longer time course (hours) than effects on open time probability or conductance (seconds to minutes). In the proposed studies we will determine if this general hypothesis is correct using electrophysiological and molecular approaches. In addition, we will begin to explore the specific domains of the Cx40 and Cx43 proteins that confer onto them sensitivity to OA. By comparing heart cells to cell types that express the same gap junction protein, we hope over the long term, to gain an understanding of tissue vs. connexin specific regulation of gap junction function and to define the probable role of gap junctions in cardiac dysfunction.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
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Cellular Biology and Physiology Subcommittee 1 (CBY)
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University of Arizona
Schools of Medicine
United States
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