Communication Through Gap Junctions in the Endothelium

K. Schmidt, R. Windler, C. de Wit*

*Corresponding author for this work
7 Citations (Scopus)


A swarm of fish displays a collective behavior (swarm behavior) and moves “en masse” despite the huge number of individual animals. In analogy, organ function is supported by a huge number of cells that act in an orchestrated fashion and this applies also to vascular cells along the vessel length. It is obvious that communication is required to achieve this vital goal. Gap junctions with their modular bricks, connexins (Cxs), provide channels that interlink the cytosol of adjacent cells by a pore sealed against the extracellular space. This allows the transfer of ions and charge and thereby the travel of membrane potential changes along the vascular wall. The endothelium provides a low-resistance pathway that depends crucially on connexin40 which is required for long-distance conduction of dilator signals in the microcirculation. The experimental evidence for membrane potential changes synchronizing vascular behavior is manifold but the functional verification of a physiologic role is still open. Other molecules may also be exchanged that possibly contribute to the synchronization (eg, Ca2+). Recent data suggest that vascular Cxs have more functions than just facilitating communication. As pharmacological tools to modulate gap junctions are lacking, Cx-deficient mice provide currently the standard to unravel their vascular functions. These include arteriolar dilation during functional hyperemia, hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction, vascular collateralization after ischemia, and feedback inhibition on renin secretion in the kidney.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEndothelium, 2016
EditorsRaouf A. Khalil
Number of pages32
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)9780128043967
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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