PloS one

Atrial fibrillation-linked germline GJA5/connexin40 mutants showed an increased hemichannel function.

PMID 24733048


Mutations in GJA5 encoding the gap junction protein connexin40 (Cx40) have been linked to lone atrial fibrillation. Some of these mutants result in impaired gap junction function due to either abnormal connexin localization or impaired gap junction channels, which may play a role in promoting atrial fibrillation. However, the effects of the atrial fibrillation-linked Cx40 mutants on hemichannel function have not been studied. Here we investigated two atrial fibrillation-linked germline Cx40 mutants, V85I and L221I. These two mutants formed putative gap junction plaques at cell-cell interfaces, with similar gap junction coupling conductance as that of wild-type Cx40. Connexin deficient HeLa cells expressing either one of these two mutants displayed prominent propidium iodide-uptake distinct from cells expressing wild-type Cx40 or other atrial fibrillation-linked Cx40 mutants, I75F, L229M, and Q49X. Propidium iodide-uptake was sensitive to [Ca2+]o and the hemichannel blockers, carbenoxolone, flufenamic acid and mefloquine, but was not affected by the pannexin 1 channel blocking agent, probenecid, indicating that uptake is most likely mediated via connexin hemichannels. A gain-of-hemichannel function in these two atrial fibrillation-linked Cx40 mutants may provide a novel mechanism underlying the etiology of atrial fibrillation.