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J Card Fail. 2002 Dec;8(6 Suppl):S293-9.

Gap junction remodeling in heart failure.

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National Heart and Lung Institute, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom.


Gap junctions, clusters of transmembrane channels that link adjoining cells, mediate myocyte-to-myocyte electrical coupling and communication. The component proteins of gap junction channels are termed connexins, and gap-junctional channels composed of different connexin types exhibit different biophysical properties. In common with other tissues, the heart expresses multiple connexin isotypes. Spatially defined patterns of expression of 3 connexin isotypes-connexin43, connexin40, and connexin45-form specific cell-to-cell conduction pathways for the spread of current flow that governs the normal cardiac rhythm. Remodeling of gap junction organization and connexin expression is a conspicuous feature of human congestive heart failure and other cardiac conditions in which there is an arrhythmic tendency. This remodeling may take the form of disturbances in the distribution of gap junctions, in which the normal ordered pathways for cell-to-cell conduction are disrupted, or quantitative alterations in connexin expression, notably reduced connexin43 levels, which may contribute to slowing of conduction. Recent evidence from studies in experimental animals strengthens the case that gap junction remodeling is a key determinant of the proarrhythmic substrate in the diseased heart.

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