BACKGROUND: Connexin43 (Cx43), a membrane protein involved in the control of cell-to-cell communication, is thought to play a role in the contractility of the vascular wall and in the electrical coupling of cardiac myocytes. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of experimental hypertension on Cx43 expression in rat aorta and heart. METHODS AND RESULTS: Rats were made hypertensive after one renal artery was clipped (two kidney, one-clip renal model) or after the administration of deoxycorticosterone and salt (DOCA-salt model). After 4 weeks, all rats showed a similar increase in intra-arterial mean blood pressure and in the thickness of both the aortic wall and the heart. Northern blot analysis of aorta mRNA and immunolabeling for Cx43 showed that hypertensive rats expressed twice as much Cx43 in aorta as the control animals. In contrast, no difference in Cx43 mRNA or in the immunolabeled protein was observed in heart. CONCLUSIONS: The results show that rats exhibiting a similar degree of blood pressure elevation, as the result of different mechanisms, feature a comparable increase in Cx43 gene expression, which was observed in the aortic but not in the cardiac muscle. These data suggest that localized mechanical forces induced by hypertension are major tissue-specific regulators of Cx43 expression
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