Defective Cx40 Maintains Cx37 Expression but Intact Cx40 Is Crucial for Conducted Dilations Irrespective of Hypertension
The gap junction channel protein connexin40 (Cx40) is crucial in vascular and renal physiology, because Cx40-deficient mice exhibit impaired conduction of endothelium-dependent dilations and pronounced hypertension. The latter precludes mechanistic insights into the role of endothelial Cx40, because long-lasting hypertension itself may affect conduction and Cx expression. We aimed to identify endothelial Cx40 functions, their dependency on the conductive capability, and to separate these from hypertension-related alterations. We assessed conduction and Cx expression in mice with cell type–specific deletion of Cx40 and in mice expressing a defective Cx40 (Cx40A96S) identified in humans, which forms nonconducting gap junction channels. Confined arteriolar stimulation with acetylcholine or bradykinin elicited local dilations that conducted upstream without attenuation of the amplitude for distances up to 1.2-mm in controls with a floxed Cx40 gene (Cx40fl/fl). Conducted responses in hypertensive animals devoid of Cx40 in renin-producing cells were unaltered but remote dilations were reduced in normotensive animals deficient for Cx40 in endothelial cells (Cx40fl/fl:Tie2-Cre). Surprisingly, Cx37 expression was undetectable by immunostaining in arteriolar endothelium only in Cx40fl/fl:Tie2-Cre; however, transcriptional activity of Cx37 in the cremaster was comparable with Cx40fl/fl controls. Cx40A96S mice were hypertensive with preserved expression of Cx40 and Cx37. Nevertheless, conducted responses were blunted. We conclude that endothelial Cx40 is necessary to support conducted dilations initiated by endothelial agonists and to locate Cx37 into the plasma membrane. These functions are unaltered by long-lasting hypertension. In the presence of a nonconducting Cx40, Cx37 is present but cannot support the conduction highlighting the importance of endothelial Cx40.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.