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9 September 2009 Pregnancy Enhances Sustained Ca2 Bursts and Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Activation in Ovine Uterine Artery Endothelial Cells Through Increased Connexin 43 Function
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Endothelium-mediated vasodilation is specifically enhanced in uterine circulation during pregnancy, and production of nitric oxide (NO) is increased in response to a wide array of agonists. Uterine artery endothelial cells from nonpregnant (NP-UAECs) or pregnant (P-UAECs) ewes maintained in culture still show a pregnancy-enhanced difference in ATP-stimulated endothelial NO synthase (eNOS; official symbol NOS3) activation, even though NOS3 protein, purinergic receptors, and associated cell signaling proteins are expressed at equal levels. We have also shown that the pregnancy-enhanced endothelial cell NO response to ATP requires an enhanced and sustained capacitative entry phase that is likely mediated via canonical transient receptor potential protein/inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor type 2 interaction. In this study, we now show by simultaneous video imaging of individual Fura-2-loaded cells that the pregnancy-enhanced capacitative entry phase is not continuous and equal in all cells, but is in fact mediated as a series of periodic [Ca2 ]i bursts within individual cells. Not only does pregnancy increase the number of bursts over a longer time period in individual cells, but also a greater proportion of cells exhibit this burst activity, and at high cell density this occurs in a synchronous manner. The mediator of cell synchronization is connexin 43 (Cx43) gap junctions because 1) Cx43 is readily detectable by Western blot analysis in UAECs, whereas Cx40 and Cx37 are weakly detected or absent, and 2) pregnancy-specific enhancement of [Ca2 ]i bursts by ATP is blocked by inhibitory loop peptides selective to Cx43 ((43,37)GAP27) but not by a scrambled control peptide or (40)GAP27 or (40,37)GAP26 peptides, which are specific to Cx40 or Cx37. The relationship between Ca2 bursts and NOS3 activation is further established by the finding that (43,37)GAP27 inhibits ATP-stimulated NOS3 activation but has no effect on cell mitogenesis. We conclude that it is pregnancy-enhanced gap junction communication between cells that underlies pregnancy enhancement of capacitative entry via TRPC3 and, in turn, NOS3 activation. Such improved gap junction function allows greater and more sustained [Ca2 ]i responses to agents such as ATP within a single cell, as well as the additional recruitment of greater numbers of cells to the response in a coordinated and synchronous manner to support enhanced NO production.

Fu-Xian Yi, Derek S. Boeldt, Shannon M. Gifford, Jeremy A. Sullivan, Mary A. Grummer, Ronald R. Magness, and Ian M. Bird "Pregnancy Enhances Sustained Ca2 Bursts and Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Activation in Ovine Uterine Artery Endothelial Cells Through Increased Connexin 43 Function," Biology of Reproduction 82(1), 66-75, (9 September 2009).
Received: 16 April 2009; Accepted: 1 August 2009; Published: 9 September 2009

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