Disruption of smooth muscle gap junctions attenuates myogenic vasoconstriction of mesenteric resistance arteries. Academic Article uri icon


  • Communication between vascular smooth muscle (VSM) cells via low-resistance gap junctions may facilitate vascular function by synchronizing the contractile state of individual cells within the vessel wall. We hypothesized that inhibition of gap junctional communication would impair constrictor responses of mesenteric resistance arteries. Immunohistochemical experiments revealed positive staining for connexin 37 (Cx37) in both endothelium and smooth muscle of rat mesenteric arterioles, whereas connexin 43 (Cx43) immunoreactivity was not detected in the mesenteric vasculature. Administration of the gap junction inhibitory peptide Gap27, which targets Cx37 and Cx43, significantly diminished myogenic vasoconstriction (8.6 +/- 3.8% of passive diameter at 100 Torr) and changes in vessel wall intracellular [Ca2+] of mesenteric resistance arteries compared with vessels treated with either vehicle (physiological saline solution) (33.5 +/- 6.1%) or a control peptide (32.1 +/- 6.5%). Administration of 18alpha-glycyrrhetinic acid, structurally distinct from Gap27, also significantly attenuated myogenic constriction compared with its vehicle control (DMSO) (9.6 +/- 3.2% vs. 23.8 +/- 4.6%). In contrast, phenylephrine-induced vasoconstriction was not altered by gap junction blockers. Attenuated myogenic vasoconstriction resulting from inhibition of gap junctions persisted after disruption of the endothelium. In additional experiments, VSM cell membrane potential was recorded in mesenteric resistance arteries pressurized to 20 or 100 Torr. VSM membrane potential was depolarized at 100 Torr compared with 20 Torr. However, VSM cells in arteries treated with Gap27 were significantly hyperpolarized (-48.6 +/- 1.4 mV) at the higher pressure compared with vehicle (-41.4 +/- 1.5 mV) and Gap20-treated (-38.4 +/- 0.7 mV) vessels. Our findings suggest that inhibition of smooth muscle gap junctions attenuates pressure-induced VSM cell depolarization and myogenic vasoconstriction.

publication date

  • December 2004