Cell junction and cyclic AMP: I. Upregulation of junctional membrane permeability and junctional membrane particles by administration of cyclic nucleotide or phosphodiesterase inhibitor

J. L. Flagg-Newton, Gerhard Dahl, W. R. Loewenstein

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Mammalian cells in culture were exposed to cyclic AMP, dibutyrul cyclic AMP, the phosphodiesterase inhibitor caffeine, or a combination of the last two, while junctional molecular transfer was probed with the series of microinjected, fluorescentlabelled linear molecules Glu, Glu-Glu, Glu-Glu-Glu, and Leu-Leu-Leu-Glu-Glu. The junctional permeability for these molecules increased with each of the agents, most markedly with the dibutyryl cyclic AMP-caffeine combination, as the intracellular cyclic nucleotide concentration rose. The junctional permeability effect developed over several hours. When probed with molecules close to the limit of cell-to-cell channel permeation (the most sensitive setting), the effect was detectable both, as an increase in the (relative) junctional transit rate and as an increase in the number of transferring cell interfaces in the test populations. The number of transferring cell interfaces reached a maximum by 4 hr, when the junctional transit rate, hence the junctional permeability, was still rising. Nonjunctional membrane permeability for the probe molecules, as determined by intracellular fluorescence loss, was not significantly changed (nor was there significant nonjunctional cell-to-cell transfer of molecules before or after the treatments). The rise in junctional permeability was associated with an increase in the number of gap junctional membrane particles, as determined by freeze-fracture electron microscopy: the average size of the particle clusters increased, and the frequency of the clusters increased, particularly that of the smaller (and presumably newer) clusters. This effect was blocked by treatments with the protein synthesis inhibitors cycloheximide or puromycin. These agents caused particle diminution (diminution of cluster frequency but not of average cluster size), with or without cyclic nucleotide. The junctional effects may represent a cyclic AMP-promoted proliferation of cell-to-cell channels. Some physiological implications, in particular, implications for hormone-regulated tissues, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-121
Number of pages17
JournalThe Journal of Membrane Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 1 1981



  • Cell-to-cell junction
  • cell-to-cell membrane channels
  • cyclic AMP
  • gap junction
  • junctional permeability
  • membrane channel recruitment
  • membrane permeability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Biophysics

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