In disease states such as heart failure, myocardial infarction and hypertrophy, changes in the expression and location of Connexin43 (Cx43) occur (Cx43 remodeling), and may predispose to arrhythmias. Stretch may be an important stimulus to Cx43 remodeling; however, it has only been investigated in neonatal cell cultures, which have different physiological properties to adult myocytes. We hypothesized that localized stretch in vivo causes Cx43 remodeling, with associated changes in conduction, mediated by the renin/angiotensin system (RAS).
Methods and Results
In an open-chest canine model a device was used to stretch part of the right ventricle (RV) by 22% for 6 hours. Activation mapping using a 312-electrode array was performed before and after stretch. Regional stretch did not change longitudinal conduction velocity (post-stretch vs. baseline: 51.5±5.2 vs. 55.3±8.1cm/s p=0.24, n=11), but significantly reduced transverse conduction velocity (28.7±2.5 vs. 35.4±5.4cm/s, p<0.01). It also reduced total Cx43 expression, by Western blotting, compared to a nonstretched area RV of the same animal (86.1±32.2 vs. 100±19.4%, p<0.02, n=11). Cx43 labeling redistributed to the lateral cell borders. Stretch caused a small but significant increase in the proportion of the dephosphorylated form of Cx43 (stretch 9.95±1.4% vs. control 8.74±1.2%, p<0.05).
Olmesartan, an angiotensin-II blocker, prevented the stretch induced changes in Cx43 levels, localization and conduction.
Myocardial stretch in vivo has opposite effects to that in neonatal myocytes in vitro. Stretch in vivo causes conduction changes associated with Cx43 remodeling that are likely caused by local stretch-induced activation of the RAS.