Aims: Heart failure (HF) is a major cause of death and morbidity. Connexin 43 (Cx43) content is reduced in the failing myocardium, but regulating factors have not been identified. In HF, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)-induced high levels of nitric oxide (NO) cause apoptosis and cardiac dysfunction. However, a direct iNOS-Cx43 link has not been demonstrated. We investigated this relationship in mice after myocardial infarction.
Methods: Effects of myocardial infarction were evaluated 2 weeks after coronary artery ligation in wild-type C57BL/6 (WT) and iNOS(-/-) knockout mice. Myocardial Cx43 and Cx45 content were assessed by immunofluorescence confocal imaging and western blotting. Cardiac function was evaluated in anaesthetized mice using a micro pressure-tipped catheter inserted into the left ventricle.
Results: Despite similar infarct size, deficiency in iNOS resulted in significantly lower plasma nitrate/nitrite levels, better haemodynamic performance and lower mortality 2 weeks after coronary ligation. Myocardial Cx43, but not Cx45, content was lower in WT mice following ligation. The reduction in Cx43 was less in iNOS(-/-) compared with WT mice. To assess the direct effect of NO on Cx43 expression, cultured neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes were employed. Incubation with the NO donor, S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine, elicited a dose-dependent decrease in Cx43 content in cultured neonatal cardiomyocytes.
Conclusions: Increased NO production from iNOS depressed cardiac performance and contributed to the decreased myocardial Cx43 content 2 weeks after myocardial infarction.