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Gap junction remodelling is involved in the susceptibility of diabetic rats to hypokalemia-induced ventricular fibrillation

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The objective of the present study was to examine the susceptibility of diabetic rats with cardiomyopathy to hypokalemia-induced ventricular fibrillation and to localize gap junction protein connexin-43 as well as subcellular changes that may be involved in the development of severe arrhythmia. Our results showed a significantly higher incidence of sustained ventricular fibrillation in diabetic hearts as compared with control hearts, 80% vs 20%, respectively. Diabetic cardiomyopathy itself was accompanied by a distinct decrease in connexin-43-immunopositive gap junctions. Moreover, interstitial fibrosis and subcellular alterations to various degrees were observed in diabetic hearts, and a further deterioration of the ultrastructure and impairment of intercellular junctions, and a stronger local decrease in connexin-43 levels due to hypokalemia were found. These changes were heterogeneously distributed throughout the myocardium and occurred earlier and were more pronounced in diabetic hearts than control hearts. In conclusion, our results indicate that diabetic cardiomyopathy is associated with down-regulation of gap junction proteins and may account for the higher vulnerability of diabetic rats to ventricular fibrillation in combination with impairment of intercellular communication due to hypokalemia.

Keywords: connexin-43; diabetic heart; ventricular fibrillation

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute for Heart Research, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic 2: Faculty of Natural Sciences Commenius University, Department of Animal Physiology and Etology, Bratislava, Slovak Republic 3: Department of Physiology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Publication date: December 1, 2002


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