Mammalian atrioventricular junction anatomy, electrophysiology and ion channel remodelling in health and disease.

  • Theodora Nikolaidou

Student thesis: Phd


The atrioventricular junction (AVJ) is a complex anatomical structure. It has an important role in maintaining synchronised atrioventricular conduction and protects from ventricular tachycardia, as well as bradycardia. Its embryological development and function is under tight transcription factor control. Heart failure is a chronic systemic condition, affecting one million people in the UK alone. Slowing of atrioventricular conduction in heart failure is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The molecular and anatomical basis of abnormal atrioventricular conduction was studied in a rabbit model of heart failure due to aortic insufficiency and abdominal aortic constriction. The PR interval was significantly prolonged in heart failure animals. Using laser-assisted microdissection, the tiny tissues of the AVJ were collected for RT-PCR analysis. HCN1, Cav1.3, Cx40 and Cx43 transcripts were significantly downregulated by heart failure, with a compensatory increase in CLCN2, Nav1.1, NavĪ²1, SUR2A and PAK1. Immunolabelling for Cx43 showed reduction in protein level and longitudinal dissociation not only in the inferior nodal extension but also in the His bundle in heart failure animals. Anatomical studies of the AVJ have previously been limited by its small size and inaccessible location. Contrast-enhanced micro-CT scanning allowed non-destructive imaging of the AVJ anatomy. AVJ length and volume were increased in the rabbit model of heart failure, which is expected to contribute to atrioventricular conduction abnormalities. Micro-CT additionally resolved the anatomy of the canine AVJ and atria, including fibre orientation in the pulmonary vein sleeves and Bachmann's bundle. The physiological effects of loss of T-box transcription factor 5 (Tbx5) in the AVJ were studied in a transgenic inducible Tbx5 knockout mouse model using optical mapping. Tbx5-deficient mice had a prolonged PR interval in vivo and a higher incidence of atrioventricular block and ventricular conduction abnormalities in Langendorff-perfused hearts.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMark Boyett (Supervisor), Ludwig Neyses (Supervisor) & Delvac Oceandy (Supervisor)


  • Tbx5
  • ion channels
  • laser microdissection
  • atrioventricular node
  • atrioventricular junction
  • heart failure

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