Contribution of connexins to the function of the vascular wall

Cardiovasc Res. 2004 May 1;62(2):345-56. doi: 10.1016/j.cardiores.2003.11.015.


Gap junction channels provide an enclosed conduit for direct exchanges of signalling molecules, including ions and small metabolites between cells. This system of communication allows cells to monitor the functional state of their neighbours, and is rapidly modulated to continuously adapt to the immediate needs of groups of coupled cells. In the major arteries, endothelial cells may express three connexins isotypes, namely Connexin 37 (Cx37), Cx40 and Cx43, whereas the underlying smooth muscle cells may express Cx37, Cx40, Cx43 and Cx45. Moreover, myoendothelial gap junctions have also been shown to be involved in the regulation of vascular tone. This review highlights the regulation of vessel connexins in response to injury, as observed during experimental hypertension or wound repair, as well as the consequences of loss of one connexin in different transgenic null mice. In view of the major endocrine role of the kidney in the control of blood pressure, we also discuss the distribution of connexins in the kidney vasculature. Cx40 is present between endothelial cells of vessels and glomeruli, as well as between renin-secreting cells, the modified smooth muscle cells which form the wall of the terminal part of afferent arterioles. Modulation of Cx40 expression in a model of renin-dependent hypertension suggests that this connexin may be implicated in the function of renin-secreting cells. Finally, to address the possible regulation of connexin expression by fluid pressure, we summarize the effects of elevated transmural urine pressure on bladder Cx43 expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / metabolism*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Kidney / blood supply
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Urinary Bladder / metabolism
  • Urinary Bladder / physiopathology
  • Wound Healing


  • Connexins
  • Ion Channels