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Mitochondrial connexin40 regulates mitochondrial calcium uptake in coronary endothelial cells.

Connexins (Cxs) are a group of integral membrane proteins that can form gap junctions between adjacent cells. Recently, it was reported that Cx43 is expressed not only in the plasma membrane but also in the inner mitochondrial membrane and that it regulates mitochondrial functions. Cx40 is predominantly expressed in vascular endothelial cells (ECs) and plays an important role in the electrical propagation between ECs and endothelial/smooth muscle cells. However, it is unknown whether Cx40 is expressed in the mitochondria and what the role of mitochondrial Cx40 is in endothelial functions. We observed in coronary ECs that Cx40 protein was expressed in the mitochondria, as determined by Western blot and immunofluorescence studies. We found that mouse coronary ECs (MCECs) isolated from Cx40 knockout (Cx40 KO) mice exhibited significantly lower resting mitochondrial calcium concentration ([Ca]) than MCECs from wild-type (WT) mice. After increase in cytosolic Ca concentration ([Ca]) with cyclopiazonic acid, calcium uptake into the mitochondria was significantly attenuated in MCECs from Cx40 KO mice compared with WT MCECs. There was no difference in resting [Ca] and store-operated calcium entry in MCECs from WT and Cx40 KO mice. We also detected a significant decrease in the concentration of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) in Cx40 KO MCECs. Cx40 overexpression in ECs significantly increased resting [Ca] level and calcium uptake by mitochondria in response to increased [Ca] and augmented mitochondrial ROS production. These data suggest that mitochondrial Cx40 contributes to the regulation of mitochondrial calcium homeostasis.

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Critical Role of Cx40 in Reduced Endothelial Electrical Coupling by Lipopolysaccharide and Hypoxia-Reoxygenation.

We discovered that lipopolysaccharide (LPS, an initiating factor in sepsis) and hypoxia-reoxygenation (H/R, a confounding factor) reduce electrical coupling between microvascular endothelial cells from wild-type (WT) but not Cx40-/- mice. Because Cx40 knockout could result in nonspecific effects, this discovery may not establish the causal relationship between Cx40 and reduced coupling. Using the same cell culture model, we aimed to address this uncertainty by using the rescue-of-function approach.

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Nitric Oxide Deficit Drives Intimal Hyperplasia in Mouse Models of Hypertension.

To evaluate the impact of different types of hypertension on the development of intimal hyperplasia (IH).

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Targeting endothelial connexin40 inhibits tumor growth by reducing angiogenesis and improving vessel perfusion.

Endothelial connexin40 (Cx40) contributes to regulate the structure and function of vessels. We have examined whether the protein also modulates the altered growth of vessels in tumor models established in control mice (WT), mice lacking Cx40 (Cx40-/-), and mice expressing the protein solely in endothelial cells (Tie2-Cx40). Tumoral angiogenesis and growth were reduced, whereas vessel perfusion, smooth muscle cell (SMC) coverage and animal survival were increased in Cx40-/- but not Tie2-Cx40 mice, revealing a critical involvement of endothelial Cx40 in transformed tissues independently of the hypertensive status of Cx40-/- mice. As a result, Cx40-/- mice bearing tumors survived significantly longer than corresponding controls, including after a cytotoxic administration. Comparable observations were made in WT mice injected with a peptide targeting Cx40, supporting the Cx40 involvement. This involvement was further confirmed in the absence of Cx40 or by peptide-inhibition of this connexin in aorta-sprouting, matrigel plug and SMC migration assays, and associated with a decreased expression of the phosphorylated form of endothelial nitric oxide synthase. The data identify Cx40 as a potential novel target in cancer treatment.

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The role of neural connexins in HeLa cell mobility and intercellular communication through tunneling tubes.

Membranous tunneling tubes (TTs) are a recently discovered new form of communication between remote cells allowing their electrical synchronization, migration, and transfer of cellular materials. TTs have been identified in the brain and share similarities with neuronal processes. TTs can be open-ended, close-ended or contain functional gap junctions at the membrane interface. Gap junctions are formed of two unapposed hemichannels composed of six connexin (Cx) subunits. There are evidences that Cxs also play channel-independent role in cell adhesion, migration, division, differentiation, formation of neuronal networks and tumorigenicity. These properties of Cxs and TTs may synergetically determine the cellular and intercellular processes. Therefore, we examined the impact of Cxs expressed in the nervous system (Cx36, Cx40, Cx43, Cx45, and Cx47) on: 1) cell mobility; 2) formation and properties of TTs; and 3) transfer of siRNA between remote cells through TTs.

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Altered conductance and permeability of Cx40 mutations associated with atrial fibrillation.

Gap junctions ensure the rapid propagation of the action potential throughout the myocardium. Three mutant forms of connexin40 (Cx40; A96S, M163V, and G38D), the primary component of the atrial gap junction channel, are associated with atrial fibrillation and retain the ability to form functional channels. We determined the biophysical properties of these mutant gap junctions in transiently transfected HeLa and N2A cells. All three mutants showed macroscopic junctional conductances over the range of 0.5 to 40 nS, and voltage dependences comparable to those of wild-type (WT) Cx40. However, the unitary conductance of G38D channels was ∼1.6-fold higher than that of WT Cx40 channels (∼220 vs. ∼135 pS), whereas the unitary conductances of the A96S and M163V mutants were similar to that of WT Cx40. Furthermore, the M163V and G38D channels exhibited approximately two- and approximately fivefold higher permeability to the anionic dye Lucifer yellow (LY) relative to K+ (LY/K+) compared with that of WT Cx40, whereas A96S LY transfer was similar to that of WT (G38D > M163V > A96S ≈ Cx40WT). In contrast, G38D channels were almost impermeable to cationic ethidium bromide (EtBr), suggesting that G38D alters channel selectivity. Conversely, A96S and M163V channels showed enhanced EtBr permeability relative to WT Cx40, with the following permeability order: M163V > A96S > Cx40WT > G38D. Altered conductive and permeability properties of mutant channels suggest an essential role for Cx40-mediated biochemical and electrical coupling in cardiac tissues. The altered properties of the three single-base substitution mutants may play a role in mechanisms of reentry arrhythmias.

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Endothelial Connexin37 and Connexin40 participate in basal but not agonist-induced NO release.

Connexin37 (Cx37) and Cx40 are crucial for endothelial cell-cell communication and homeostasis. Both connexins interact with endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). The exact contribution of these interactions to the regulation of vascular tone is unknown.

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Influence of Connexin40 on the renal myogenic response in murine afferent arterioles.

Renal autoregulation consists of two main mechanisms; the myogenic response and the tubuloglomerular feedback mechanism (TGF). Increases in renal perfusion pressure activate both mechanisms causing a reduction in diameter of the afferent arteriole (AA) resulting in stabilization of the glomerular pressure. It has previously been shown that connexin-40 (Cx40) is essential in the renal autoregulation and mediates the TGF mechanism. The aim of this study was to characterize the myogenic properties of the AA in wild-type and connexin-40 knockout (Cx40KO) mice using both in situ diameter measurements and modeling. We hypothesized that absence of Cx40 would not per se affect myogenic properties as Cx40 is expressed primarily in the endothelium and as the myogenic response is known to be present also in isolated, endothelium-denuded vessels. Methods used were the isolated perfused juxtamedullary nephron preparation to allow diameter measurements of the AA. A simple mathematical model of the myogenic response based on experimental parameters was implemented. Our findings show that the myogenic response is completely preserved in the AA of the Cx40KO and if anything, the stress sensitivity of the smooth muscle cell in the vascular wall is increased rather than reduced as compared to the WT. These findings are compatible with the view of the myogenic response being primarily a local response to the local transmural pressure.

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P2Y₂ receptor activation decreases blood pressure via intermediate conductance potassium channels and connexin 37.

Nucleotides are important paracrine regulators of vascular tone. We previously demonstrated that activation of P2Y₂ receptors causes an acute, NO-independent decrease in blood pressure, indicating this signalling pathway requires an endothelial-derived hyperpolarization (EDH) response. To define the mechanisms by which activation of P2Y₂ receptors initiates EDH and vasodilation, we studied intermediate-conductance (KCa3.1, expressed in endothelial cells) and big-conductance potassium channels (KCa1.1, expressed in smooth muscle cells) as well as components of the myoendothelial gap junction, connexins 37 and 40 (Cx37, Cx40), all hypothesized to be part of the EDH response.

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Functional formation of heterotypic gap junction channels by connexins-40 and -43.

Connexin40 (Cx40) and connexin43 (Cx43) are co-expressed in the cardiovascular system, yet their ability to form functional heterotypic Cx43/Cx40 gap junctions remains controversial. We paired Cx43 or Cx40 stably-transfected N2a cells to examine the formation and biophysical properties of heterotypic Cx43/Cx40 gap junction channels. Dual whole cell patch clamp recordings demonstrated that Cx43 and Cx40 form functional heterotypic gap junctions with asymmetric transjunctional voltage (Vj) dependent gating properties. The heterotypic Cx43/Cx40 gap junctions exhibited less Vj gating when the Cx40 cell was positive and pronounced gating when negative. Endogenous N2a cell connexin expression levels were 1,000-fold lower than exogenously expressed Cx40 and Cx43 levels, measured by real-time PCR and Western blotting methods, suggestive of heterotypic gap junction formation by exogenous Cx40 and Cx43. Imposing a [KCl] gradient across the heterotypic gap junction modestly diminished the asymmetry of the macroscopic normalized junctional conductance - voltage (Gj-Vj) curve when [KCl] was reduced by 50% on the Cx43 side and greatly exacerbated the Vj gating asymmetries when lowered on the Cx40 side. Pairing wild-type (wt) Cx43 with the Cx40 E9,13K mutant protein produced a nearly symmetrical heterotypic Gj-Vj curve. These studies conclusively demonstrate the ability of Cx40 and Cx43 to form rectifying heterotypic gap junctions, owing primarily to alternate amino-terminal (NT) domain acidic and basic amino acid differences that may play a significant role in the physiology and/or pathology of the cardiovascular tissues including cardiac conduction properties and myoendothelial intercellular communication.

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