Gap junction number and size vary widely in cardiac tissues with disparate conduction properties. Little is known about how tissue-specific patterns of intercellular junctions are established and regulated. To elucidate the relationship between gap junction channel protein expression and the structure of gap junctions, we analyzed Cx43 +/- mice, which have a genetic deficiency in expression of the major ventricular gap junction protein, connexin43 (Cx43). Quantitative confocal immunofluorescence microscopy revealed that diminished Cx43 signal in Cx43 +/- mice was due almost entirely to a reduction in the number of individual gap junctions (226 ± 52 vs. 150 ± 32 individual gap junctions/field in Cx43 +/+ and +/- ventricles, respectively; P < 0.05). The mean size of an individual gap junction was the same in both groups. Immunofluorescence results were confirmed with electron microscopic morphometry. Thus when connexin expression is diminished, ventricular myocytes become interconnected by a reduced number of large, normally sized gap junctions, rather than a normal number of smaller junctions. Maintenance of large gap junctions may be an adaptive response supporting safe ventricular conduction.
|American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
|Published - May 2000
- Confocal immunofluorescence microscopy
- Connexin-deficient mice
- Electron microscopy
- Fascia adherens junctions
- Intercalated disks