Domain-Specific Partitioning of Uterine Artery Endothelial Connexin43 and Caveolin-1

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Uterine vascular adaptations facilitate rises in uterine blood flow during pregnancy, which are associated with gap junction connexin (Cx) proteins and endothelial nitric oxide synthase. In uterine artery endothelial cells (UAECs), ATP activates endothelial nitric oxide synthase in a pregnancy (P)-specific manner that is dependent on Cx43 function. Caveolar subcellular domain partitioning plays key roles in ATP-induced endothelial nitric oxide synthase activation and nitric oxide production. Little is known regarding the partitioning of Cx proteins to caveolar domains or their dynamics with ATP treatment. We observed that Cx43-mediated gap junction function with ATP stimulation is associated with Cx43 repartitioning between the noncaveolar and caveolar domains. Compared with UAECs from nonpregnant (NP) ewes, levels of ATP, PGI2, cAMP, NOx, and cGMP were 2-fold higher (P<0.05) in pregnant UAECs. In pregnant UAECs, ATP increased Lucifer yellow dye transfer, a response abrogated by Gap27, but not Gap 26, indicating involvement of Cx43, but not Cx37. Confocal microscopy revealed domain partitioning of Cx43 and caveolin-1. In pregnant UAECs, LC/MS/MS analysis revealed only Cx43 in the caveolar domain. In contrast, Cx37 was located only in the noncaveolar pool. Western analysis revealed that ATP increased Cx43 distribution (1.7-fold; P=0.013) to the caveolar domain, but had no effect on Cx37. These data demonstrate rapid ATP-stimulated repartitioning of Cx43 to the caveolae, where endothelial nitric oxide synthase resides and plays an important role in nitric oxide–mediated increasing uterine blood flow during pregnancy.

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