Connexin-43 (Cx43) is the most abundant protein forming gap junction channels (GJCs) in cardiac ventricles. In multiple cardiac pathologies, including hypertrophy and heart failure, Cx43 is found remodeled at the lateral side of the intercalated discs of ventricular cardiomyocytes. Remodeling of Cx43 has been long linked to spontaneous ventricular arrhythmia, yet the mechanisms by which arrhythmias develop are still debated. Using a model of dystrophic cardiomyopathy, we previously showed that remodeled Cx43 function as aberrant hemichannels (non-forming GJCs) that alter cardiomyocyte excitability and, consequently, promote arrhythmias. Here, we aim to evaluate if opening of remodeled Cx43 can serve as a general mechanism to alter cardiac excitability independent of cellular dysfunction associated with a particular cardiomyopathy. To address this issue, we used a genetically modified Cx43 knock-in mouse (S3A) that promotes cardiac remodeling of Cx43 protein without apparent cardiac dysfunction. Importantly, when S3A mice were subjected to cardiac stress using the β-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol (Iso), they displayed acute and severe arrhythmias, which were not observed in WT mice. Pretreatment of S3A mice with the Cx43 hemichannel blocker, Gap19, prevented Iso-induced abnormal electrocardiographic behavior. At the cellular level, when compared with WT, Iso-treated S3A cardiomyocytes showed increased membrane permeability, greater plasma membrane depolarization, and Ca2+ overload, which likely caused prolonged action potentials, delayed after depolarizations, and triggered activity. All these cellular dysfunctions were also prevented by Cx43 hemichannel blockers. Our results support the notion that opening of remodeled Cx43 hemichannels, regardless of the type of cardiomyopathy, is sufficient to mediate cardiac-stress-induced arrhythmogenicity.

This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at
You do not currently have access to this content.