Evaluating the role of connexin43 in congenital heart disease: Screening for mutations in patients with outflow tract anomalies and the analysis of knock-in mouse models

Children's Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
Journal of cardiovascular disease research 10/2011; 2(4):206-12. DOI: 10.4103/0975-3583.89804
Source: PubMed


GJA1 gene encodes a gap junction protein known as connexin 43 (Cx43). Cx43 is abundantly expressed in the ventricular myocardium and in cardiac neural crest cells. Cx43 is proposed to play an important role in human congenital heart disease, as GJA1 knock-out mice die neonatally from outflow tract obstruction. In addition, patients with visceroatrial heterotaxia or hypoplastic left heart syndrome were reported to have point mutations in GJA1 at residues that affect protein kinase phosphorylation and gating of the gap junction channel. However, as these clinical findings were not replicated in subsequent studies, the question remains about the contribution of GJA1 mutations in human congenital heart disease (CHD).
We analyzed the GJA1 coding sequence in 300 patients with CHD from two clinical centers, focusing on outflow tract anomalies. This included 152 with Tetralogy of Fallot from over 200 patients exhibiting outflow tract anomalies, as well as other structural heart defects including atrioventricular septal defects and other valvar anomalies. Our sequencing analysis revealed only two silent nucleotide substitutions in 8 patients. To further assess the possible role of Cx43 in CHD, we also generated two knock-in mouse models with point mutations at serine residues subject to protein kinase C or casein kinase phosphorylation, sites that are known to regulate gating and trafficking of Cx43, respectively.
Both heterozygous and homozygous knock-in mice were long term viable and did not exhibit overt CHD.
The combined clinical and knock-in mouse mutant studies indicate GJA1 mutation is not likely a major contributor to CHD, especially those involving outflow tract anomalies.

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Available from: Bishwanath Chatterjee, Mar 06, 2014
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    • "and which were designed to distinguish between GJA1 and its pseudogene (Huang et al., 2011). Amplified products were sequenced, using both the forward and reverse primers, on an ABI 3130XL Genetic Analyser (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA). "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Deafness is the most common sensory disability in the world and has a variety of causes. Globally, mutations in GJB2 have been shown to play a major role in nonsyndromic deafness, but this has not been seen in Africans. Two other connexin genes, GJB6 and GJA1, have been implicated in hearing loss but have seldom been investigated in African populations. We set out to investigate the role of genetic variation in GJB6 and GJA1 in a group of Cameroonian and South African Blacks with nonsyndromic recessive hearing loss. A subset of 100 patients, affected with nonsyndromic hearing loss, from a cohort that was previously shown not to have GJB2 mutation, was analyzed by Sanger sequencing of the entire coding regions of GJB6 and GJA1. In addition, the large-scale GJB6-D3S1830 deletion was also investigated. No pathogenic mutation was detected in either GJB6 or GJA1, nor was the GJB6-D3S1830 deletion detected. There were no statistically significant differences in sequence variants between patients and controls. Mutations in GJB6 and GJA1 are not a major cause of nonsyndromic deafness in this group of Africans from Cameroon and South Africa. Currently, there is no sufficient evidence to support their testing in a clinical setting for individuals of African ancestry.
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    • "Moreover, years ago several authors addressed the question of whether or not mutations in the Cx43 (GJA1) gene are responsible for the heart malformation TOF [2], [3]. In some of these studies missense mutations could be found in Fallot-patients but in others not. "
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    ABSTRACT: Gap junction channels are involved in growth and differentiation. Therefore, we wanted to elucidate if the main cardiac gap junction protein connexin43 (GJA1) is altered in patients with Tetralogy of Fallot or double-outlet right ventricle of Fallot-type (62 patients referred to as Fallot) compared to other cardiac anomalies (21 patients referred to as non-Fallot). Patients were divided into three age groups: 0-2years, 2-12years and >12years. Myocardial tissue samples were collected during corrective surgery and analysis of cell morphology, GJA1- and N-cadherin (CDH2)-distribution, as well as GJA1 protein- and mRNA-expression was carried out. Moreover, GJA1-gene analysis of 16 patients and 20 healthy subjects was performed. Myocardial cell length and width were significantly increased in the oldest age group compared to the younger ones. GJA1 distribution changed significantly during maturation with the ratio of polar/lateral GJA1 increasing from 2.93±0.68 to 8.52±1.41. While in 0-2years old patients ∼6% of the lateral GJA1 was co-localised with CDH2 this decreased with age. Furthermore, the changes in cell morphology and GJA1-distribution were not due to the heart defect itself but were significantly dependent on age. Total GJA1 protein expression decreased during growing-up, whereas GJA1-mRNA remained unchanged. Sequencing of the GJA1-gene revealed only few heterozygous single nucleotide polymorphisms within the Fallot and the healthy control group. During maturation significant changes in gap junction remodelling occur which might be necessary for the growing and developing heart. In our study point mutations within the Cx43-gene could not be identified as a cause of the development of TOF.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    • "As the C-terminus includes important phosphorylation sites (Figure 1) the authors concluded that the mutations could have an impact on the structure of Cx43 and on normal channel function. In contrast, 1 year later another very interesting study came to a radically opposed conclusion: in this study, 300 patients with conotruncal heart defects including Fallot’s Tetralogy were investigated and the authors discovered two silent mutations in the Cx43 gene in eight patients, but no mutations were found which would alter Cx43 amino acid sequence (Huang et al., 2011). Moreover, this working group constructed a mouse model with homozygous or heterozygous mutations of serine residues known to be targeted by PKC or CK1 (casein kinase 1), both enzymes being important for channel conductance and the assembly of Cx43 gap junction channels. "
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    ABSTRACT: Inborn cardiac diseases are among the most frequent congenital anomalies and are the main cause of death in infants within the first year of age in industrialized countries when not adequately treated. They can be divided into simple and complex cardiac malformations. The former ones, for instance atrial and ventricular septal defects, valvular or subvalvular stenosis or insufficiency account for up to 80% of cardiac abnormalities. The latter ones, for example transposition of the great vessels, Tetralogy of Fallot or Shone's anomaly often do not involve only the heart, but also the great vessels and although occurring less frequently, these severe cardiac malformations will become symptomatic within the first months of age and have a high risk of mortality if the patients remain untreated. In the last decade, there is increasing evidence that cardiac gap junction proteins, the connexins (Cx), might have an impact on cardiac anomalies. In the heart, mainly three of them (Cx40, Cx43, and Cx45) are differentially expressed with regard to temporal organogenesis and to their spatial distribution in the heart. These proteins, forming gap junction channels, are most important for a normal electrical conduction and coordinated synchronous heart muscle contraction and also for the normal embryonic development of the heart. Animal and also some human studies revealed that at least in some cardiac malformations alterations in certain gap junction proteins are present but until today no particular gap junction mutation could be assigned to a specific cardiac anomaly. As gap junctions have often been supposed to transmit growth and differentiation signals from cell to cell it is reasonable to assume that they are somehow involved in misdirected growth present in many inborn heart diseases playing a primary or contributory role. This review addresses the potentional role of gap junctions in the development of inborn heart anomalies like the conotruncal heart defects.
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