Physiology

Macrophages feel the heart beat

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Science  12 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6338, pp. 595
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6338.595-a

Immune cells in the heart influence contractility.

PHOTO: ZEPHYR/SCIENCE SOURCE

Macrophages, best known for their phagocytic function in the immune system, also have multiple tissue-specific functions, not least in the heart. Hulsmans et al. explored the role of macrophages that are abundant in the atrioventricular (AV) node of the mouse. These macrophages express the connexin 43 (CX43) protein that forms gap junctions between cells, which allow electrical coupling of cells. Macrophages forming such connections alter the electrophysiological function of cardiomyocytes. Deletion of the CX43 protein from macrophages delays conduction by the AV node, and ablation of macrophages blocks conductance of atrial impulses to the ventricles. Macrophages thus influence normal heart contraction, but, because of their alternative function as immune effectors, they might also contribute to heart abnormalities associated with inflammatory diseases.

Cell 10.1016/j.cell.2017.03.050 (2017).

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