Cx43 Channel Gating and Permeation: Multiple Phosphorylation-Dependent Roles of the Carboxyl Terminus.
ABSTRACT: Connexin 43 (Cx43), a gap junction protein seemingly fit to support cardiac impulse propagation and synchronic contraction, is phosphorylated in normoxia by casein kinase 1 (CK1). However, during cardiac ischemia or pressure overload hypertrophy, this phosphorylation fades, Cx43 abundance decreases at intercalated disks and increases at myocytes' lateral borders, and the risk of arrhythmia rises. Studies in wild-type and transgenic mice indicate that enhanced CK1-phosphorylation of Cx43 protects from arrhythmia, while dephosphorylation precedes arrhythmia vulnerability. The mechanistic bases of these Cx43 (de)phosphoform-linked cardiac phenotypes are unknown. We used patch-clamp and dye injection techniques to study the channel function (gating, permeability) of Cx43 mutants wherein CK1-targeted serines were replaced by aspartate (Cx43-CK1-D) or alanine (Cx43-CK1-A) to emulate phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, respectively. Cx43-CK1-D, but not Cx43-CK1-A, displayed high Voltage-sensitivity and variable permselectivity. Both mutants showed multiple channel open states with overall increased conductivity, resistance to acidification-induced junctional uncoupling, and hemichannel openings in normal external calcium. Modest differences in the mutant channels' function and regulation imply the involvement of dissimilar structural conformations of the interacting domains of Cx43 in electrical and chemical gating that may contribute to the divergent phenotypes of CK1-(de)phospho-mimicking Cx43 transgenic mice and that may bear significance in arrhythmogenesis.
Project description:Phosphorylation is a key regulatory event in controlling the function of the cardiac gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43). Three new phosphorylation sites (S296, S297, S306) have been identified on Cx43; two of these sites (S297 and S306) are dephosphorylated during ischemia. The functional significance of these new sites is currently unknown.The purpose of this study was to examine the role of S296, S297, and S306 in the regulation of electrical intercellular communication.To mimic constitutive dephosphorylation, serine was mutated to alanine at the three sites and expressed in HeLa cells. Electrical coupling and single channel measurements were performed by double patch clamp. Protein expression levels were assayed by western blotting, localization of Cx43, and phosphorylation of S306 by immunolabeling. Free hemichannels were assessed by biotinylation.Macroscopic conductance in cells expressing S306A was reduced to 57% compared to wild type (WT), whereas coupling was not significantly changed in cells expressing either S296A or S297A. S306A-expressing cells displayed similar protein and free hemichannel abundance compared to WT Cx43, whereas the fractional area of plaques in cell-to-cell interfaces was increased. However, single channel measurements showed a WT Cx43 main state conductance of 119 pS, whereas the main state conductance of S306A channels was reduced to 95 pS. Furthermore, channel gating was affected in S306A channels.Lack of phosphorylation at serine 306 results in reduced coupling, which can be explained by reduced single channel conductance. We suggest that dephosphorylation of S306 partly explains the electrical uncoupling seen in myocardial ischemia.
Project description:Gap junction protein connexin 43 (Cx43) plays an important role in regulating cardiomyocyte survival in addition to regulating electrical coordination. Cx43 dephosphorylation, found in severe cardiac pathologies, is thought to contribute to myocardial injury. However, the mechanisms underlying Cx43 mediation of cell survival and myocardial lesions remain unknown. Here, we found that transfecting an adenovirus carrying a mutant gene of Cx43-serine 282 substituted with alanine (S282A) into neonatal rat ventricular myocytes (NRVMs) induced cell apoptosis and Ca<sup>2+</sup> transient desynchronization, whereas using gap junction inhibitor or knocking down Cx43 expression with Cx43-miRNA caused uncoupled Ca<sup>2+</sup> signaling without cell death. Similarly, while Cx43-S282A<sup>+/+</sup> failed in generation, Cx43-S282A<sup>+/-</sup> mice exhibited cardiomyocyte apoptosis and ventricular arrhythmias dependent on S282 dephosphorylation. Further, Cx43 dephosphorylation at S282 activated p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK), factor-associated suicide and the caspase-8 apoptotic pathway by physically interacting with p38 MAPK. These findings uncovered a specific Cx43 phosphorylation residue involved in regulating cardiomyocyte homeostasis. S282 phosphorylation deficiency acts as a trigger inducing cardiomyocyte apoptosis and cardiac arrhythmias, providing a potential mechanism for Cx43-mediated myocardial injury in severe cardiac diseases.
Project description:Cardiac arrhythmias are associated with raised intracellular [Ca<sup>2+</sup>] and slowed action potential conduction caused by reduced gap junction (GJ) electrical conductance (Gj). Ventricular GJs are composed of connexin proteins (Cx43), with Gj determined by Cx43 phosphorylation status. Connexin phosphorylation is an interplay between protein kinases and phosphatases but the precise pathways are unknown. We aimed to identify key Ca<sup>2+</sup>-dependent phosphorylation sites on Cx43 that regulate cardiac gap junction conductance and action potential conduction velocity. We investigated the role of the Ca<sup>2+</sup>-dependent phosphatase, calcineurin. Intracellular [Ca<sup>2+</sup>] was raised in guinea-pig myocardium by a low-Na solution or increased stimulation. Conduction velocity and Gj were measured in multicellular strips. Phosphorylation of Cx43 serine residues (S365 and S368) and of the intermediary regulator I1 at threonine35 was measured by Western blot. Measurements were made in the presence and absence of inhibitors to calcineurin, I1 or protein phosphatase-1 and phosphatase-2.Raised [Ca<sup>2</sup><sup>+</sup>]<sub>i</sub> decreased Gj, reduced Cx43 phosphorylation at S365 and increased it at S368; these changes were reversed by calcineurin inhibitors. Cx43-S368 phosphorylation was reversed by the protein kinase C inhibitor chelerythrine. Raised [Ca<sup>2+</sup>]<sub>i</sub> also decreased I1 phosphorylation, also prevented by calcineurin inhibitors, to increase activity of the Ca<sup>2+</sup>-independent phosphatase, PPI. The PP1 inhibitor, tautomycin, prevented Cx43-365 dephosphorylation, Cx43-S368 phosphorylation and Gj reduction in raised [Ca<sup>2+</sup>]<sub>i</sub>. PP2A had no role. Conduction velocity was reduced by raised [Ca<sup>2+</sup>]<sub>i</sub> and reversed by calcineurin inhibitors. Reduced action potential conduction and Gj in raised [Ca<sup>2+</sup>] are regulated by calcineurin-dependent Cx43-S365 phosphorylation, leading to Cx43-S368 dephosphorylation. The calcineurin action is indirect, via I1 dephosphorylation and subsequent activation of PP1.
Project description:<h4>Aims</h4>We have shown that failing human and rabbit left ventricle (LV) exhibits downregulation and dephosphorylation of connexin43 (Cx43) and that Cx43 dephosphorylation in heart failure (HF) contributes to reduced cell coupling. However, the role of Cx43 downregulation per se in impaired coupling in HF is unclear.<h4>Methods and results</h4>First, we used adenovirus (Ad) encoding a Cx43 siRNA sequence to knock down Cx43 protein levels in cultured control rabbit LV myocytes. Cells cultured for up to 48 h with intermittent pacing maintained Cx43 protein levels and phosphorylation status. Cell coupling in Cx43 knockdown myocyte pairs (by Lucifer Yellow dye transfer) was markedly reduced after 24 h infection (associated with approximately 40% Cx43 knockdown) and after 48 h (associated with approximately 70% Cx43 knockdown). The phosphorylation status, distribution of remaining Cx43 proteins, and levels of other cardiac connexins (Cx40 and Cx45) were unchanged. Second, we overexpressed Cx43 to levels comparable to control using an adenovirus encoding wild-type Cx43 (Cx43WT) gene in isolated LV myocytes from our arrhythmogenic HF rabbit model. We found 87% more Cx43WT proteins improved dye coupling [vs. Ad-beta-galactosidase (LacZ) infected HF controls]. Overexpressed Cx43 protein was located throughout the myocyte membrane (same pattern as in controls), and the phosphorylation status of Cx43 remained comparable to that in AdLacZ infected HF controls.<h4>Conclusion</h4>In addition to Cx43 dephosphorylation, downregulation of Cx43 plays an essential role in reduced cell coupling in the failing rabbit heart. Modulation of Cx43 expression could be a novel therapeutic approach to improve conduction and decrease sudden death in HF.
Project description:Myocardial connexin 43 (Cx43) forms gap junctions and hemichannels, and is also present within subsarcolemmal mitochondria. The protein is phosphorylated by several kinases including mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), protein kinase C (PKC), and casein kinase 1 (CK1). A reduction in Cx43 content abrogates myocardial infarct size reduction by ischemic preconditioning (IPC). The present study characterizes the contribution of Cx43 phosphorylation towards mitochondrial function, hemichannel activity, and the cardioprotection by IPC in wild-type (WT) mice and in mice in which Cx43-phosphorylation sites targeted by above kinases are mutated to non-phosphorylatable residues (Cx43<sup>MAPKmut</sup>, Cx43<sup>PKCmut</sup>, and Cx43<sup>CK1mut</sup> mice). The amount of Cx43 in the left ventricle and in mitochondria was reduced in all mutant strains compared to WT mice and Cx43 phosphorylation was altered at residues not directly targeted by the mutations. Whereas complex 1 respiration was reduced in all strains, complex 2 respiration was decreased in Cx43<sup>CK1mut</sup> mice only. In Cx43 epitope-mutated mice, formation of reactive oxygen species and opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore were not affected. The hemichannel open probability was reduced in Cx43<sup>PKCmut</sup> and Cx43<sup>CK1mut</sup> but not in Cx43<sup>MAPKmut</sup> cardiomyocytes. Infarct size in isolated saline-perfused hearts after ischemia/reperfusion (45 min/120 min) was comparable between genotypes and was significantly reduced by IPC (3 × 3 min ischemia/5 min reperfusion) in WT, Cx43<sup>MAPKmut</sup>, and Cx43<sup>PKCmut</sup>, but not in Cx43<sup>CK1mut</sup> mice, an effect independent from the amount of Cx43 and the probability of hemichannel opening. Taken together, our study shows that alterations of Cx43 phosphorylation affect specific cellular functions and highlights the importance of Cx43 phosphorylation by CK1 for IPC's cardioprotection.
Project description:Degeneration of retinal astrocytes precedes hypoxia-driven pathologic neovascularization and vascular leakage in ischemic retinopathies. However, the molecular events that underlie astrocyte loss remain unclear. Astrocytes abundantly express connexin 43 (Cx43), a transmembrane protein that forms gap junction (GJ) channels and hemichannels. Cx channels can transfer toxic signals from dying cells to healthy neighbors under pathologic conditions. Here we show that Cx43 plays a critical role in astrocyte apoptosis and the resulting preretinal neovascularization in a mouse model of oxygen-induced retinopathy. Opening of Cx43 hemichannels was not observed following hypoxia. In contrast, GJ coupling between astrocytes increased, which could lead to amplification of injury. Accordingly, conditional deletion of Cx43 maintained a higher density of astrocytes in the hypoxic retina. We also identify a role for Cx43 phosphorylation in mediating these processes. Increased coupling in response to hypoxia is due to phosphorylation of Cx43 by casein kinase 1? (CK1?). Suppression of this phosphorylation using an inhibitor of CK1? or in site-specific phosphorylation-deficient mice similarly protected astrocytes from hypoxic damage. Rescue of astrocytes led to restoration of a functional retinal vasculature and lowered the hypoxic burden, thereby curtailing neovascularization and neuroretinal dysfunction. We also find that absence of astrocytic Cx43 does not affect developmental angiogenesis or neuronal function in normoxic retinas. Our in vivo work directly links phosphorylation of Cx43 to astrocytic coupling and apoptosis and ultimately to vascular regeneration in retinal ischemia. This study reveals that targeting Cx43 phosphorylation in astrocytes is a potential direction for the treatment of proliferative retinopathies.
Project description:Renin-angiotensin (RAS) system activation is associated with an increased risk of sudden death. Previously, we used cardiac-restricted angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) overexpression to construct a mouse model of RAS activation. These ACE 8/8 mice die prematurely and abruptly. Here, we have investigated cardiac electrophysiological abnormalities that may contribute to early mortality in this model. In ACE 8/8 mice, surface ECG voltages are reduced. Intracardiac electrograms showed atrial and ventricular potential amplitudes of 11% and 24% compared with matched wild-type (WT) controls. The atrioventricular (AV), atrio-Hisian (AH), and Hisian-ventricular (HV) intervals were prolonged 2.8-, 2.6-, and 3.9-fold, respectively, in ACE 8/8 vs. WT mice. Various degrees of AV nodal block were present only in ACE 8/8 mice. Intracardiac electrophysiology studies demonstrated that WT and heterozygote (HZ) mice were noninducible, whereas 83% of ACE 8/8 mice demonstrated ventricular tachycardia with burst pacing. Atrial connexin 40 (Cx40) and connexin 43 (Cx43) protein levels, ventricular Cx43 protein level, atrial and ventricular Cx40 mRNA abundances, ventricular Cx43 mRNA abundance, and atrial and ventricular cardiac Na(+) channel (Scn5a) mRNA abundances were reduced in ACE 8/8 compared with WT mice. ACE 8/8 mice demonstrated ventricular Cx43 dephosphorylation. Atrial and ventricular L-type Ca(2+) channel, Kv4.2 K(+) channel alpha-subunit, and Cx45 mRNA abundances and the peak ventricular Na(+) current did not differ between the groups. In isolated heart preparations, a connexin blocker, 1-heptanol (0.5 mM), produced an electrophysiological phenotype similar to that seen in ACE 8/8 mice. Therefore, cardiac-specific ACE overexpression resulted in changes in connexins consistent with the phenotype of low-voltage electrical activity, conduction defects, and induced ventricular arrhythmia. These results may help explain the increased risk of arrhythmia in states of RAS activation such as heart failure.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Guanylyl cyclase, a heme-containing α1β1 heterodimer (GC1), produces cGMP in response to Nitric oxide (NO) stimulation. The NO-GC1-cGMP pathway negatively regulates cardiomyocyte contractility and protects against cardiac hypertrophy-related remodeling. We recently reported that the β1 subunit of GC1 is detected at the intercalated disc with connexin 43 (Cx43). Cx43 forms gap junctions (GJs) at the intercalated disc that are responsible for electrical propagation. We sought to determine whether there is a functional association between GC1 and Cx43 and its role in cardiac homeostasis. METHODS AND RESULTS:GC1 and Cx43 immunostaining at the intercalated disc and coimmunoprecipitation from membrane fraction indicate that GC1 and Cx43 are associated. Mice lacking the α subunit of GC1 (GCα1 knockout mice) displayed a significant decrease in GJ function (dye-spread assay) and Cx43 membrane lateralization. In a cardiac-hypertrophic model, angiotensin II treatment disrupted the GC1-Cx43 association and induced significant Cx43 membrane lateralization, which was exacerbated in GCα1 knockout mice. Cx43 lateralization correlated with decreased Cx43-containing GJs at the intercalated disc, predictors of electrical dysfunction. Accordingly, an ECG revealed that angiotensin II-treated GCα1 knockout mice had impaired ventricular electrical propagation. The phosphorylation level of Cx43 at serine 365, a protein-kinase A upregulated site involved in trafficking/assembly of GJs, was decreased in these models. CONCLUSIONS:GC1 modulates ventricular Cx43 location, hence GJ function, and partially protects from electrical dysfunction in an angiotensin II hypertrophy model. Disruption of the NO-cGMP pathway is associated with cardiac electrical disturbance and abnormal Cx43 phosphorylation. This previously unknown NO/Cx43 signaling could be a protective mechanism against stress-induced arrhythmia.
Project description:Fibroblasts play a significant role in the development of electrical and mechanical dysfunction of the heart; however, the underlying mechanisms are only partially understood. One widely studied mechanism suggests that fibroblasts produce excess extracellular matrix, resulting in collagenous septa that slow propagation, cause zig-zag conduction paths, and decouple cardiomyocytes, resulting in a substrate for cardiac arrhythmia. An emerging mechanism suggests that fibroblasts promote arrhythmogenesis through direct electrical interactions with cardiomyocytes via gap junction (GJ) channels. In the heart, three major connexin (Cx) isoforms, Cx40, Cx43, and Cx45, form GJ channels in cell-type-specific combinations. Because each Cx is characterized by a unique time- and transjunctional voltage-dependent profile, we investigated whether the electrophysiological contributions of fibroblasts would vary with the specific composition of the myocyte-fibroblast (M-F) GJ channel. Due to the challenges of systematically modifying Cxs in vitro, we coupled native cardiomyocytes with in silico fibroblast and GJ channel electrophysiology models using the dynamic-clamp technique. We found that there is a reduction in the early peak of the junctional current during the upstroke of the action potential (AP) due to GJ channel gating. However, effects on the cardiomyocyte AP morphology were similar regardless of the specific type of GJ channel (homotypic Cx43 and Cx45, and heterotypic Cx43/Cx45 and Cx45/Cx43). To illuminate effects at the tissue level, we performed multiscale simulations of M-F coupling. First, we developed a cell-specific model of our dynamic-clamp experiments and investigated changes in the underlying membrane currents during M-F coupling. Second, we performed two-dimensional tissue sheet simulations of cardiac fibrosis and incorporated GJ channels in a cell type-specific manner. We determined that although GJ channel gating reduces junctional current, it does not significantly alter conduction velocity during cardiac fibrosis relative to static GJ coupling. These findings shed more light on the complex electrophysiological interplay between cardiac fibroblasts and myocytes.
Project description:The gap junction protein connexin 43 (Cx43) is a key player in wound healing, and inhibitors of Cx43, which speed epidermal wound healing, are currently in clinical trials. Here, we provide direct in vivo evidence that specific phosphorylation events on Cx43 change the physiological response during wound healing. Blocking phosphorylation, through mutation of serine residues in Cx43 at the protein kinase C (PKC) or casein kinase 1 (CK1) sites, significantly slowed the rate of wound closure in vivo and in vitro and resulted in a thicker epidermal layer after reepithelialization. Conversely, preventing Cx43 phosphorylation by mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) through mutation significantly increased the rate of wound closure in vivo Defects in migration, but not proliferation, in all mutants were partially rescued in vitro by changing serine residues to aspartic or glutamic acid. These data prove that specific Cx43 phosphorylation events play an important role at different stages of wound healing. Thus, a clear physiological understanding of the spatiotemporal regulation of kinase activation and consequent effects on gap junctions could lead to a more targeted approach to modulating Cx43 expression during wound healing.