Cardiomyocyte Gap Junctions: A Target of Growth-Promoting Signaling
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Gap junctions (GJ), composed of connexins, are membrane channels that connect and enable communication between neighboring cells and which, in addition to being essential for the coordinated electrical and contractile activity of the heart, may regulate intercellular transmission of signals affecting proliferative growth. Alterations in GJ permeability that have been associated with the regulation of growth can occur acutely through phosphorylation of connexins: fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) causes decreased coupling and increased phosphorylation of a major cardiomyocyte connexin, connexin43 (Cx43), while stimulating proliferation of cardiomyocytes. On the other hand, transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) prevents the effects of FGF-2 on Cx43 phosphorylation, as well as canceling the FGF-2-induced proliferation. Parallel to its link with growth regulation, Cx43 phosphorylation emerges as a functionally important end point for delineating cardiac signal transduction pathways elicited by diverse physiologic or pathologic stimuli.
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