[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We examined whether coupling of a ventricular myocyte to a non-myocyte cell expressing HCN2 could create a two-cell syncytium capable of generating sustained pacing. Three non-myocyte cell types were transfected with the mHCN2 gene and used as sources of mHCN2-induced currents. They were human mesenchymal stem cells and HEK293 cells, both of which express connexin43 (Cx43), and HeLa cells transfected with Cx43. Cell-cell coupling between heterologous pairs increased with time in co-culture, and hyperpolarization of the myocyte induced HCN2 currents, indicating current transfer from the mHCN2-expressing cell to the myocyte via gap junctions. The magnitude of the HCN2 currents recorded in myocytes increased with increasing junctional conductance. Once a critical level of electrical cell-cell coupling between myocytes and mHCN2 transfected cells was exceeded spontaneous action potentials were generated at frequencies of approximately 0.6 to 1.7 Hz (1.09 +/- 0.05 Hz). Addition of carbenoxolone (200 microM), a gap junction channel blocker, to the media stopped spontaneous activity in heterologous cell pairs. Carbenoxolone washout restored activity. Blockade of HCN2 currents by 100 microM 9-amino-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroacridine (THA) stopped spontaneous activity and subsequent washout restored it. Neither THA nor carbenoxolone affected electrically stimulated action potentials in isolated single myocytes. In summary, the inward current evoked in the genetically engineered (HCN2-expressing) cell was delivered to the cardiac myocyte via gap junctions and generated action potentials such that the cell pair could function as a pacemaker unit. This finding lays the groundwork for understanding cell-based biological pacemakers in vivo once an understanding of delivery and target cell geometry is defined.
The Journal of Physiology 10/2009; 587(Pt 21):5211-26. DOI:10.1113/jphysiol.2009.180505 · 5.04 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Gap junction channels exhibit connexin dependent biophysical properties, including selective intercellular passage of larger solutes, such as second messengers and siRNA. Here, we report the determination of cyclic nucleotide (cAMP) permeability through gap junction channels composed of Cx43, Cx40, or Cx26 using simultaneous measurements of junctional conductance and intercellular transfer of cAMP. For cAMP detection the recipient cells were transfected with a reporter gene, the cyclic nucleotide-modulated channel from sea urchin sperm (SpIH). cAMP was introduced via patch pipette into the cell of the pair that did not express SpIH. SpIH-derived currents (I(h)) were recorded from the other cell of a pair that expressed SpIH. cAMP diffusion through gap junction channels to the neighboring SpIH-transfected cell resulted in a five to sixfold increase in I(h) current over time. Cyclic AMP transfer was observed for homotypic Cx43 channels over a wide range of conductances. However, homotypic Cx40 and homotypic Cx26 exhibited reduced cAMP permeability in comparison to Cx43. The cAMP/K(+) permeability ratios were 0.18, 0.027, and 0.018 for Cx43, Cx26, and Cx40, respectively. Cx43 channels were approximately 10 to 7 times more permeable to cAMP than Cx40 or Cx26 (Cx43 > Cx26 > or = Cx40), suggesting that these channels have distinctly different selectivity for negatively charged larger solutes involved in metabolic/biochemical coupling. These data suggest that Cx43 permeability to cAMP results in a rapid delivery of cAMP from cell to cell in sufficient quantity before degradation by phosphodiesterase to trigger relevant intracellular responses. The data also suggest that the reduced permeability of Cx26 and Cx40 might compromise their ability to deliver cAMP rapidly enough to cause functional changes in a recipient cell.
The Journal of General Physiology 05/2008; 131(4):293-305. DOI:10.1085/jgp.200709934 · 4.79 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to determine whether oligonucleotides the size of siRNA are permeable to gap junctions and whether a specific siRNA for DNA polymerase beta (pol beta) can move from one cell to another via gap junctions, thus allowing one cell to inhibit gene expression in another cell directly. To test this hypothesis, fluorescently labelled oligonucleotides (morpholinos) 12, 16 and 24 nucleotides in length were synthesized and introduced into one cell of a pair using a patch pipette. These probes moved from cell to cell through gap junctions composed of connexin 43 (Cx43). Moreover, the rate of transfer declined with increasing length of the oligonucleotide. To test whether siRNA for pol beta was permeable to gap junctions we used three cell lines: (1) NRK cells that endogenously express Cx43; (2) Mbeta16tsA cells, which express Cx32 and Cx26 but not Cx43; and (3) connexin-deficient N2A cells. NRK and Mbeta16tsA cells were each divided into two groups, one of which was stably transfected to express a small hairpin RNA (shRNA), which gives rise to siRNA that targets pol beta. These two pol beta knockdown cell lines (NRK-kcdc and Mbeta16tsA-kcdc) were co-cultured with labelled wild type, NRK-wt or Mbeta16tsA-wt cells or N2A cells. The levels of pol beta mRNA and protein were determined by semiquantitative RT-PCR and immunoblotting. Co-culture of Mbeta16tsA-kcdc cells with Mbeta16tsA-wt, N2A or NRK-wt cells had no effect on pol beta levels in these cells. Similarly, co-culture of NRK-kcdc with N2A cells had no effect on pol beta levels in the N2A cells. In contrast, co-culture of NRK-kcdc with NRK-wt cells resulted in a significant reduction in pol beta in the wt cells. The inability of Mbeta16tsA-kcdc cells to transfer siRNA is consistent with the fact that oligonucleotides of the 12 nucleotide length were not permeable to Cx32/Cx26 channels. This suggested that Cx43 but not Cx32/Cx26 channels allowed the cell-to-cell movement of the siRNA. These results support the novel hypothesis that non-hybridized and possible hybridized forms of siRNA can move between mammalian cells through connexin-specific gap junctions.
The Journal of Physiology 11/2005; 568(Pt 2):459-68. DOI:10.1113/jphysiol.2005.090985 · 5.04 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are a multipotent cell population with the potential to be a cellular repair or delivery system provided that they communicate with target cells such as cardiac myocytes via gap junctions. Immunostaining revealed typical punctate staining for Cx43 and Cx40 along regions of intimate cell-to-cell contact between hMSCs. The staining patterns for Cx45 rather were typified by granular cytoplasmic staining. hMSCs exhibited cell-to-cell coupling to each other, to HeLa cells transfected with Cx40, Cx43 and Cx45 and to acutely isolated canine ventricular myocytes. The junctional currents (I(j)) recorded between hMSC pairs exhibited quasi-symmetrical and asymmetrical voltage (V(j)) dependence. I(j) records from hMSC-HeLaCx43 and hMSC-HeLaCx40 cell pairs also showed symmetrical and asymmetrical V(j) dependence, while hMSC-HeLaCx45 pairs always produced asymmetrical I(j) with pronounced V(j) gating when the Cx45 side was negative. Symmetrical I(j) suggests that the dominant functional channel is homotypic, while the asymmetrical I(j) suggests the activity of another channel type (heterotypic, heteromeric or both). The hMSCs exhibited a spectrum of single channels with transition conductances (gamma(j)) of 30-80 pS. The macroscopic I(j) obtained from hMSC-cardiac myocyte cell pairs exhibited asymmetrical V(j) dependence, while single channel events revealed gamma(j) of the size range 40-100 pS. hMSC coupling via gap junctions to other cell types provides the basis for considering them as a therapeutic repair or cellular delivery system to syncytia such as the myocardium.
The Journal of Physiology 04/2004; 555(Pt 3):617-26. DOI:10.1113/jphysiol.2003.058719 · 5.04 Impact Factor