Propagation of electrical activity between myocytes in the heart requires gap junction channels, which contribute to coordinated conduction of the heartbeat. Some antipsychotic drugs, such as thioridazine and its active metabolite, mesoridazine, have known cardiac conduction side-effects, which have resulted in fatal or nearly fatal clinical consequences in patients. The physiological mechanisms responsible for these cardiac side-effects are unknown. We tested the effect of thioridazine and mesoridazine on gap junction-mediated intercellular communication between cells that express the major cardiac gap junction subtype connexin 43. Micromolar concentrations of thioridazine and mesoridazine inhibited gap junction-mediated intercellular communication between WB-F344 epithelial cells in a dose-dependent manner, as measured by fluorescent dye transfer. Kinetic analyses demonstrated that inhibition by 10 μmol/L thioridazine occurred within 5 min, achieved its maximal effect within 1 h, and was maintained for at least 24 h. Inhibition was reversible within 1 h upon removal of the drug. Western blot analysis of connexin 43 in a membrane-enriched fraction of WB-F344 cells treated with thioridazine revealed decreased amounts of unphosphorylated connexin 43, and appearance of a phosphorylated connexin 43 band that co-migrated with a "hyperphosphorylated" connexin 43 band present in TPA-inhibited cells. When tested for its effects on cardiomyocytes isolated from neonatal rats, thioridazine decreased fluorescent dye transfer between colonies of beating myocytes. Microinjection of individual cells with fluorescent dye also showed inhibition of dye transfer in thioridazine-treated cells compared to vehicle-treated cells. In addition, thioridazine, like TPA, inhibited rhythmic beating of myocytes within 15 min of application. In light of the fact that the thioridazine and mesoridazine concentrations used in these experiments are in the range of those used clinically in patients, our results suggest that inhibition of gap junction intercellular communication may be one factor contributing to the cardiac side-effects observed in some patients taking these medications.
- Connexin 43
- Gap junction