Calcium-activated potassium channel and connexin expression in small mesenteric arteries from eNOS-deficient (eNOS-/-) and eNOS-expressing (eNOS+/+) mice
Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated
Endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF), notably in the microcirculation, plays an important role in the regulation of vascular tone. The cellular events that mediate EDHF are critically dependent, in a vessel dependent manner, on small conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (SK) and intermediate conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (IK) as well as the presence of the gap junction connexins 37, 40, and 43. We hypothesized that the expression levels of SK, IK, as well as vascular connexins, notably 37, 40 and 43 but, potentially, connexin 45, would show correlation with the contribution of EDHF to acetylcholine-mediated vasodilatation as well as, in the absence of endothelial-derived NO, higher expression levels in eNOS(-/-) mice. Wire myograph studies were performed to confirm the contribution of EDHF to endothelium-dependent relaxation in 1st, 2nd and 3rd order small mesenteric arteries from C57BL/6J eNOS-expressing (eNOS(+/+)) and eNOS-deficient C57BL/6J (eNOS(-/-)) mice. Small mesenteric arteries, as well as the branch points between 1st and 2nd and 2nd and 3rd order vessels, were analysed for the expression of mRNA for SK1, SK2, SK3, IK and large conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (BK) and comparable studies were performed for connexins 37, 40, 43 and 45. Although the contribution of EDHF to endothelium-dependent relaxation was significantly greater in the 3rd order vessels from the eNOS(+/+) the real-time (RT) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) data showed no differences for the expression levels of mRNA for any of the channel subtypes or the connexins within the small mesenteric arteries from either the eNOS(+/+) or eNOS(-/-) mice, nor, based on RT PCR analysis, were there differences in expression of the potassium channels studied in the branch points versus 1st, 2nd or 3rd order vessels. These data suggest that neither the gene expression of calcium-activated potassium channels nor vascular connexins are modulated by NO; however, their functional contribution to endothelium-dependent relaxation may be modulated by other physiological parameters.