The Gap Junction Group
Structure of the group
The group is headed by Associate Professor Morten Schak Nielsen and consists of 3-4 senior scientists, and 3-5 graduate and undergraduate students.
Complex multi-cellular organs require coordination of the activity of individual cells. This is accomplished by gap junctions which are clusters of intercellular channels offering low-resistance electrical coupling between cells. The gap junction channels act as water filled pores, allowing current and substances up to ~1 kDa to pass. The proteins forming these channels belong to a family called connexins.
Gap junctions play a role in the propagation of action potentials, and most myocardial cells are extensively coupled. Coupling is essential to both proper activation of the heart and to its electrical stability. This is accomplished by synchronising activation and repolarisation of neighbouring myocytes. A decrease in intercellular coupling has been shown not only to slow conduction, but also to create electrical gradients during repolarisation. These effects will make hearts prone to arrhythmia.