Involvement of gap junctional intercellular communication in the pathophysiology of inflammation


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Involvement of gap junctional intercellular communication in the pathophysiology of inflammation
Rignault S.
Waeber B.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
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Inflammation has evolved as a mechanism to defend the body against invading microorganisms and to respond to injury. It requires the coordinated response of a large number of cell types from the whole organism in a time- and space-dependent fashion. This coordination involves several cell-cell communication mechanisms. Exchange of humoral mediators such as cytokines is a major one. Moreover, direct contact between cells happens and plays a primordial role, for example when macrophages present antigens to lymphocytes. Contact between endothelial cells and leucocytes occurs when the latter cross the blood vessel barrier and transmigrate to the inflammatory site. A particular way by which cells communicate with each other in the course of inflammation, which at this time starts to gain attention, is the intercellular communication mediated by gap junctions. Gap junctions are channels providing a direct pathway (i.e. without transit through the extracellular space) for the diffusion of small molecules between adjacent cells. This process is known as gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC). The general aim of this thesis was to study a possible involvement of GJIC in the pathophysiology of inflammation. A first part of the work was dedicated to study the implication of GJIC in the modification of vascular endothelial function by inflammation. In a second part, we were interested in the possible role of GJIC in the transmigration of neutrophil polymorphonuclear leucocytes through the endothelium. The main positive finding of this work is that acute inflammation preferentially modulates the expression of connexin 40 (Cx40), a gap junction protein specifically expressed in vascular endothelium. The modulation could be towards overexpression (aortic endothelium of septic rats) or towards downregulation (acutely inflamed mouse lung). We put a lot of efforts in search of possible functions of these modulations, in two directions: a potential protective role of Cx40 increased expression against sepsis-induced endothelial dysfunction, and a facilitating role of Cx40 decreased expression in neutrophil transmigration. To pursue both directions, it seemed logical to study the impact of Cx40 deletion using knock-out mice. Concerning the potential protective role of Cx40 overexpression we encountered a roadblock as we observed, in the aorta, a Cx40 downregulation in wild type mouse whereas Cx40 was upregulated in the rat. Regarding the second direction and using an in vivo approach, we observed that pulmonary neutrophil transmigration was not affected by the genetic deletion of Cx40. In spite of their negative nature, these results are the very first ones regarding the potential implication of GJIC concerning leucocyte transmigration in vivo. Because this process involves such tight cell-cell physical contacts, the hypothesis for a role of GJIC remains attractive.
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11/10/2010 16:33
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20/08/2019 16:08
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