Cellular interaction in vessels is achieved by multiple communication pathways, including gap junctions (GJs). They provide intercellular channels, allowing direct interaction of endothelial and smooth muscle cells and the coordination of cellular behaviour along the vessel. The latter is a prerequisite for large flow increases because an adaptation of resistance along the vessel length is required. Longitudinal communication is studied by confined local stimulation of arterioles and the observation of responses at distant locations. Certain vascular stimuli induce local and concomitant remote responses of a similar type, verifying rapid longitudinal conduction of vasomotor signals, most likely changes in membrane potential. This is achieved for dilatory responses via the endothelium, possibly by an endothelium-derived hyperpolarising factor (EDHF) that induces local hyperpolarisation, which is then transferred to remote sites through GJs. In vessels, GJs are composed of different connexins (Cx), but Cx40 is of special importance because its lack impairs longitudinal conduction of vasodilations. Interestingly, Cx40-deficient mice are hypertensive, suggesting that Cx40-dependent coupling is necessary to regulate vascular behaviour and peripheral resistance. While the role of other connexins is less well established, an abundance of data has proven the necessity of GJ communication to coordinate vascular behaviour during blood flow regulation.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)