Ageing-related changes of connexins and conduction within the sinoatrial node

Sandra A. Jones, Matthew K. Lancaster, Mark R. Boyett

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    Clinical studies have shown that sinoatrial node dysfunction occurs at the highest incidence in the elderly population. Guinea-pigs were studied throughout their lifespan (i.e. birth to 38 months) to investigate the possible mechanism leading to nodal dysfunction. Using immunofluorescence with confocal microscopy, Cx43 protein expression was shown at birth to be present throughout the sinoatrial node and atrial muscle, however, at one month Cx43 protein was not expressed in the centre of the sinoatrial node. Throughout the remainder of the animal's lifespan the area of tissue lacking Cx43 protein progressively increased. Western blot provided verification by quantitative analysis that Cx43 protein expression within the sinoatrial node decreased with age; however, the expression of other cardiac connexins, Cx40 and Cx45, did not differ with age. Analysis of conduction maps showing propagation of the action potential across the sinoatrial node, from the initiation point to the crista terminalis, found that the action potential conduction time taken and conduction distance increased proportionally with age; conversely the conduction velocity decreased with age. We have shown ageing induces degenerative changes in action potential conduction, contributed to by the observed loss of Cx43 protein. Our data identify Cx43 as a potential therapeutic target for quashing the age-related deterioration of the cardiac pacemaker. © The Physiological Society 2004.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)429-437
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Physiology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2004


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