The main function of the heart is to pump blood to the different parts of the organism, a task that is efficiently accomplished through proper electric and metabolic coupling between cardiac cells, ensured by gap junctions (GJ). Cardiomyocytes are the major cell population in the heart, and as cells with low mitotic activity, are highly dependent upon mechanisms of protein degradation. In the heart, both the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) and autophagy participate in the fine-tune regulation of cardiac remodelling and function, either in physiological or pathological conditions. Indeed, besides controlling cardiac signalling pathways, UPS and autophagy have been implicated in the turnover of several myocardial proteins. Degradation of Cx43, the major ventricular GJ protein, has been associated to up-regulation of autophagy at the onset of heart ischemia and ischemia/reperfusion (I/R), which can have profound implications upon cardiac function. In this review, we present recent studies devoted to the involvement of autophagy and UPS in heart homoeostasis, with a particular focus on GJ.

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