Published in Volume
99, Issue 8
(April 15, 1997)J Clin Invest.
1997, The American Society for
Slow ventricular conduction in mice heterozygous for a connexin43 null mutation.
Department of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.
Published April 15, 1997
To characterize the role of the gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) in ventricular conduction, we studied hearts of mice with targeted deletion of the Cx43 gene. Mice homozygous for the Cx43 null mutation (Cx43 -/-) die shortly after birth. Attempts to record electrical activity in neonatal Cx43 -/- hearts (n = 5) were unsuccessful. Ventricular epicardial conduction of paced beats, however, was 30% slower in heterozygous (Cx43 -/+) neonatal hearts (0.14+/-0.04 m/s, n = 27) than in wild-type (Cx43 +/+) hearts (0.20+/-0.07 m/s, n = 32; P < 0.001). This phenotype was even more severe in adult mice; ventricular epicardial conduction was 44% slower in 6-9 mo-old Cx43 -/+ hearts (0.18+/-0.03 m/s, n = 5) than in wild-type hearts (0.32+/-0.07 m/s, n = 7, P < 0.001). Electrocardiograms revealed significant prolongation of the QRS complex in adult Cx43 -/+ mice (13.4+/-1.8 ms, n = 13) compared with Cx43 +/+ mice (11.5+/-1.4 ms, n = 12, P < 0.01). Whole-cell recordings of action potential parameters in cultured disaggregated neonatal ventricular myocytes from Cx43 -/+ and +/+ hearts showed no differences. Thus, reduction in the abundance of a major cardiac gap junction protein through targeted deletion of a Cx43 allele directly leads to slowed ventricular conduction.