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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2006 Dec;291(6):R1688-99. Epub 2006 Jul 13.

Descending vasa recta endothelium is an electrical syncytium.

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  • 1Division of Nephrology N3W143, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


We examined gap junction coupling of descending vasa recta (DVR). DVR endothelial cells or pericytes were depolarized to record the associated capacitance transients. Virtually all endothelia and some pericytes exhibited prolonged transients lasting 10-30 ms. Carbenoxolone (100 microM) and 18beta-glycyrrhetinic acid (18betaGRA; 100 microM) markedly shortened the endothelial transients. Carbenoxolone and heptanol (2 mM) reduced the pericyte capacitance transients when they were prolonged. Lucifer yellow (LY; 2 mM) was dialyzed into the cytoplasm of endothelial cells and pericytes. LY spread diffusely along the endothelial monolayer, whereas in most pericytes, it was confined to a single cell. In some pericytes, complex patterns of LY spreading were observed. DVR cells were depolarized by voltage clamp as fluorescence of bis(1,3-dibarbituric acid)-trimethine oxanol [DiBAC(4)(3)] was monitored approximately 200 microm away. A 40-mV endothelial depolarization was accompanied by a 26.1 +/- 5.5-mV change in DiBAC(4)(3) fluorescence. DiBAC(4)(3) fluorescence did not change after 18betaGRA or when pericytes were depolarized. Similarly, propagated cytoplasmic Ca(2+) responses arising from mechanical perturbation of the DVR wall were attenuated by 18betaGRA or heptanol. Connexin (Cx) immunostaining showed predominant linear Cx40 and Cx43 in endothelia, whereas Cx37 stained smooth muscle actin-positive pericytes. We conclude that the DVR endothelium is an electrical syncytium and that gap junction coupling in DVR pericytes exists but is less pronounced.

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