ATP release through connexin hemichannels and gap junction transfer of second messengers propagate Ca2+ signals across the inner ear

Fabio Anselmi, Victor H. Hernandez, Giulia Crispino, Anke Seydel, Saida Ortolanoa, Stephen D. Roper, Nicoletta Kessaris, William Richardson, Gesa Rickheit, Mikhail A. Filippov, Hannah Monyer, Fabio Mammano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

230 Scopus citations


Extracellular ATP controls various signaling systems including propagation of intercellular Ca2+ signals (ICS). Connexin hemichannels, P2x7 receptors (P2x7Rs), pannexin channels, anion channels, vesicles, and transporters are putative conduits for ATP release, but their involvement in ICS remains controversial. We investigated ICS in cochlear organotypic cultures, in which ATP acts as an IP3-generating agonist and evokes Ca 2+ responses that have been linked to noise-induced hearing loss and development of hair cell-afferent synapses. Focal delivery of ATP or photostimulation with caged IP3 elicited Ca2+ responses that spread radially to several orders of unstimulated cells. Furthermore, we recorded robust Ca2+ signals from an ATP biosensor apposed to supporting cells outside the photostimulated area in WT cultures. ICS propagated normally in cultures lacking either P2x7R or pannexin-1 (Px1), as well as in WT cultures exposed to blockers of anion channels. By contrast, Ca2+ responses failed to propagate in cultures with defective expression of connexin 26 (Cx26) or Cx30. A companion paper demonstrates that, if expression of either Cx26 or Cx30 is blocked, expression of the other is markedly downregulated in the outer sulcus. Lanthanum, a connexin hemichannel blocker that does not affect gap junction (GJ) channels when applied extracellularly, limited the propagation of Ca2+ responses to cells adjacent to the photostimulated area. Our results demonstrate that these connexins play a dual crucial role in inner ear Ca2+ signaling: as hemichannels, they promote ATP release, sustaining long-range ICS propagation; as GJ channels, they allow diffusion of Ca 2+-mobilizing second messengers across coupled cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18770-18775
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 2 2008


  • Biosensor cells
  • Deafness
  • Mouse models
  • P2x7 receptor
  • Pannexin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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