Function of the voltage gate of gap junction channels

Selective exclusion of molecules

Yang Qu, Gerhard Dahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

79 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Gap junction channels span the membranes of two adjacent cells and allow the gated transit of molecules as large as second messengers from cell to cell. In vertebrates, gap junctions are composed of proteins from the connexin (cx) gene family. Gap junction channels formed by most connexins are affected by transjunctional voltage. The function of the voltage gate is unclear, because substantial electrical coupling typically remains with activated gates because of the channels dwelling in subconductance rather than closed states. Here, we find in Xenopus oocytes expressing cx43 or cx46 that the activated voltage gate preferentially restricts the passage of larger ions, such as fluorescent tracer molecules and cAMP, while having little effect on the electrical coupling arising from the passage of small electrolytes. Thus, a conceivable physiological role of the voltage gate is to selectively restrict the passage of large molecules between cells while allowing electrical coupling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-702
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume99
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 22 2002

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Gap Junctions
Connexins
Connexin 43
Second Messenger Systems
Xenopus
Ion Channels
Electrolytes
Oocytes
Vertebrates
Ions
Genes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

Cite this

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AB - Gap junction channels span the membranes of two adjacent cells and allow the gated transit of molecules as large as second messengers from cell to cell. In vertebrates, gap junctions are composed of proteins from the connexin (cx) gene family. Gap junction channels formed by most connexins are affected by transjunctional voltage. The function of the voltage gate is unclear, because substantial electrical coupling typically remains with activated gates because of the channels dwelling in subconductance rather than closed states. Here, we find in Xenopus oocytes expressing cx43 or cx46 that the activated voltage gate preferentially restricts the passage of larger ions, such as fluorescent tracer molecules and cAMP, while having little effect on the electrical coupling arising from the passage of small electrolytes. Thus, a conceivable physiological role of the voltage gate is to selectively restrict the passage of large molecules between cells while allowing electrical coupling.

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