Analysis of four connexin26 mutant gap junctions and hemichannels reveals variations in hexamer stability.
ABSTRACT: Connexin26 is a ubiquitous gap junction protein that serves critical homeostatic functions. Four single-site mutations found in the transmembrane helices (M1-M4) cause different types of dysfunctional channels: 1), Cx26T135A in M3 produces a closed channel; 2), Cx26M34A in M1 severely decreases channel activity; 3), Cx26P87L in M2 has been implicated in defective channel gating; and 4), Cx26V84L in M2, a nonsyndromic deafness mutant, retains normal dye coupling and electrophysiological properties but is deficient in IP(3) transfer. These mutations do not affect Cx26 trafficking in mammalian cells, and make normal-appearing channels in baculovirus-infected Sf9 membranes when imaged by negative stain electron microscopy. Upon dodecylmaltoside solubilization of the membrane fraction, Cx26M34A and Cx26V84L are stable as hexamers or dodecamers, but Cx26T135A and Cx26P87L oligomers are not. This instability is also found in Cx26T135A and Cx26P87L hemichannels isolated from mammalian cells. In this work, coexpression of both wild-type Cx26 and Cx26P87L in Sf9 cells rescued P87L hexamer stability. Similarly, in paired Xenopus oocytes, coexpression with wild-type restored function. In contrast, the stability of Cx26T135A hemichannels could not be rescued by coexpression with WT. Thus, T135 and P87 residues are in positions that are important for oligomer stability and can affect gap junction gating.
Project description:Connexin proteins form hexameric assemblies known as hemichannels. When docked to form gap junction (GJ) channels, hemichannels play a critical role in cell-cell communication and cellular homeostasis, but often are functional entities on their own in unapposed cell membranes. Defects in the Connexin26 (Cx26) gene are the major cause of hereditary deafness arising from dysfunctional hemichannels in the cochlea. Structural studies of Cx26 hemichannels properly trafficked and inserted in plasma membranes, including their clustering that forms a plaque-like feature in whole gap junctions, are limited. We used atomic force microscopy (AFM) to study the surface topography of Cx26 hemichannels using two different membrane preparations. Rat Cx26 containing appended carboxy terminal V5 and hexahistidine tags were expressed in baculovirus/Sf9 cell systems. The expressed Cx26 proteins form hemichannels in situ in Sf9 cells that were then purified either as (1) Sf9 membrane fragments containing Cx26 hemichannels or (2) solubilized hemichannels. The latter were subsequently reconstituted in liposomes. AFM images of purified membrane fragments showed clusters of protein macromolecular structures in the membrane that at higher magnification corresponded to Cx26 hemichannels. Hemichannels reconstituted into DOPC bilayers displayed two populations of channel heights likely resulting from differences in orientations of inserted hemichannels. Hemichannels in the protein rich portions of purified membranes also showed a reduced channel height above the bilayer compared to membranes with reconstituted hemichannels perhaps due to reduced AFM probe access to the lipid bilayer. These preparations of purified membranes enriched for connexin hemichannels that have been properly trafficked and inserted in membranes provide a platform for high-resolution AFM imaging of the structure, interconnexon interactions, and cooperativity of properly trafficked and inserted noncrystalline connexin hemichannels.
Project description:Mutations in GJB2 (connexin [Cx]26) cause either deafness or deafness associated with skin diseases. That different disorders can be caused by distinct mutations within the same gene suggests that unique channel activities are influenced by each class of mutation. We have examined the functional characteristics of two human mutations, Cx26-H73R and Cx26-S183F, causing palmoplantar keratoderma (PPK) and deafness. Both failed to form gap junction channels or hemichannels when expressed alone. Coexpression of the mutants with wild-type Cx43 showed a transdominant inhibition of Cx43 gap junction channels, without reductions in Cx43 protein synthesis. In addition, the presence of mutant Cx26 shifted Cx43 channel gating and kinetics toward a more Cx26-like behavior. Coimmunoprecipitation showed Cx43 being pulled down more efficiently with mutant Cx26 than wild-type, confirming the enhanced formation of heteromeric connexons. Finally, the formation of heteromeric connexons resulted in significantly increased Cx43 hemichannel activity in the presence of Cx26 mutants. These findings suggest a common mechanism whereby Cx26 mutations causing PPK and deafness transdominantly influence multiple functions of wild-type Cx43. They also implicate a role for aberrant hemichannel activity in the pathogenesis of PPK and further highlight an emerging role for Cx43 in genetic skin diseases.
Project description:Excessive opening of undocked Cx26 hemichannels in the plasma membrane is associated with disease pathogenesis in keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness (KID) syndrome. Thus far, excessive opening of KID mutant hemichannels has been attributed, almost solely, to aberrant inhibition by extracellular Ca(2+). This study presents two new possible contributing factors, pH and Zn(2+). Plasma pH levels and micromolar concentrations of Zn(2+) inhibit WT Cx26 hemichannels. However, A40V KID mutant hemichannels show substantially reduced inhibition by these factors. Using excised patches, acidification was shown to be effective from either side of the membrane, suggesting a protonation site accessible to H(+) flux through the pore. Sensitivity to pH was not dependent on extracellular aminosulfonate pH buffers. Single channel recordings showed that acidification did not affect unitary conductance or block the hemichannel but rather promoted gating to the closed state with transitions characteristic of the intrinsic loop gating mechanism. Examination of two nearby KID mutants in the E1 domain, G45E and D50N, showed no changes in modulation by pH or Zn(2+). N-bromo-succinimide, but not thiol-specific reagents, attenuated both pH and Zn(2+) responses. Individually mutating each of the five His residues in WT Cx26 did not reveal a key His residue that conferred sensitivity to pH or Zn(2+). From these data and the crystal structure of Cx26 that suggests that Ala-40 contributes to an intrasubunit hydrophobic core, the principal effect of the A40V mutation is probably a perturbation in structure that affects loop gating, thereby affecting multiple factors that act to close Cx26 hemichannels via this gating mechanism.
Project description:Connexin 26 (Cx26) is a transmembrane protein that forms hexameric hemichannels that can function when unopposed or dock to form intercellular gap junction channels. Aberrantly functioning unopposed hemichannels are a common feature of syndromic deafness associated with mutations in Cx26. In this study, we examine two different mutations at the same position in the N-terminal domain of Cx26, N14K and N14Y, which have been reported to produce different phenotypes in patients. We find that both N14K and N14Y, when expressed alone or together with wild-type (WT) Cx26, result in functional hemichannels with widely disparate functional properties. N14K currents are robust, whereas N14Y currents are small. The two mutants also exhibit opposite shifts in voltage-dependent loop gating, such that activation of N14K and N14Y is shifted in the hyperpolarizing and depolarizing directions, respectively. Deactivation kinetics suggests that N14K stabilizes and N14Y destabilizes the open state. Single N14K hemichannel recordings in low extracellular Ca(2+) show no evidence of stable closing transitions associated with loop gating, and N14K hemichannels are insensitive to pH. Together, these properties cause N14K hemichannels to be particularly refractory to closing. Although we find that the unitary conductance of N14K is indistinguishable from WT Cx26, mutagenesis and substituted cysteine accessibility studies suggest that the N14 residue is exposed to the pore and that the differential properties of N14K and N14Y hemichannels likely result from altered electrostatic interactions between the N terminus and the cytoplasmic extension of TM2 in the adjacent subunit. The combined effects that we observe on loop gating and pH regulation may explain the unusual buccal cutaneous manifestations in patients carrying the N14K mutation. Our work also provides new considerations regarding the underlying molecular mechanism of loop gating, which controls hemichannel opening in the plasma membrane.
Project description:Human Connexin26 gene mutations cause hearing loss. These hereditary mutations are the leading cause of childhood deafness worldwide. Mutations in gap junction proteins (connexins) can impair intercellular communication by eliminating protein synthesis, mis-trafficking, or inducing channels that fail to dock or have aberrant function. We previously identified a new class of mutants that form non-functional gap junction channels and hemichannels (connexons) by disrupting packing and inter-helix interactions. Here we analyzed fourteen point mutations in the fourth transmembrane helix of connexin26 (Cx26) that cause non-syndromic hearing loss. Eight mutations caused mis-trafficking (K188R, F191L, V198M, S199F, G200R, I203K, L205P, T208P). Of the remaining six that formed gap junctions in mammalian cells, M195T and A197S formed stable hemichannels after isolation with a baculovirus/Sf9 protein purification system, while C202F, I203T, L205V and N206S formed hemichannels with varying degrees of instability. The function of all six gap junction-forming mutants was further assessed through measurement of dye coupling in mammalian cells and junctional conductance in paired Xenopus oocytes. Dye coupling between cell pairs was reduced by varying degrees for all six mutants. In homotypic oocyte pairings, only A197S induced measurable conductance. In heterotypic pairings with wild-type Cx26, five of the six mutants formed functional gap junction channels, albeit with reduced efficiency. None of the mutants displayed significant alterations in sensitivity to transjunctional voltage or induced conductive hemichannels in single oocytes. Intra-hemichannel interactions between mutant and wild-type proteins were assessed in rescue experiments using baculovirus expression in Sf9 insect cells. Of the four unstable mutations (C202F, I203T, L205V, N206S) only C202F and N206S formed stable hemichannels when co-expressed with wild-type Cx26. Stable M195T hemichannels displayed an increased tendency to aggregate. Thus, mutations in TM4 cause a range of phenotypes of dysfunctional gap junction channels that are discussed within the context of the X-ray crystallographic structure.
Project description:A group of human mutations within the N-terminal (NT) domain of connexin 26 (Cx26) hemichannels produce aberrant channel activity, which gives rise to deafness and skin disorders, including keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness (KID) syndrome. Structural and functional studies indicate that the NT of connexin hemichannels is folded into the pore, where it plays important roles in permeability and gating. In this study, we explore the molecular basis by which N14K, an NT KID mutant, promotes gain of function. In macroscopic and single-channel recordings, we find that the N14K mutant favors the open conformation of hemichannels, shifts calcium and voltage sensitivity, and slows deactivation kinetics. Multiple copies of MD simulations of WT and N14K hemichannels, followed by the Kolmogorov-Smirnov significance test (KS test) of the distributions of interaction energies, reveal that the N14K mutation significantly disrupts pairwise interactions that occur in WT hemichannels between residue K15 of one subunit and residue E101 of the adjacent subunit (E101 being located at the transition between transmembrane segment 2 [TM2] and the cytoplasmic loop [CL]). Double mutant cycle analysis supports coupling between the NT and the TM2/CL transition in WT hemichannels, which is disrupted in N14K mutant hemichannels. KS tests of the α carbon correlation coefficients calculated over MD trajectories suggest that the effects of the N14K mutation are not confined to the K15-E101 pairs but extend to essentially all pairwise residue correlations between the NT and TM2/CL interface. Together, our data indicate that the N14K mutation increases hemichannel open probability by disrupting interactions between the NT and the TM2/CL region of the adjacent connexin subunit. This suggests that NT-TM2/CL interactions facilitate Cx26 hemichannel closure.
Project description:The gap junction channel is formed by proper docking of two hemichannels. Depending on the connexin(s) in the hemichannels, homotypic and heterotypic gap junction channels can be formed. Previous studies suggest that the extracellular loop 2 (E2) is an important molecular domain for heterotypic compatibility. Based on the crystal structure of the Cx26 gap junction channel and homology models of heterotypic channels, we analyzed docking selectivity for several hemichannel pairs and found that the hydrogen bonds between E2 domains are conserved in a group of heterotypically compatible hemichannels, including Cx26 and Cx32 hemichannels. According to our model analysis, Cx32N175Y mutant destroys three hydrogen bonds in the E2-E2 interactions due to steric hindrance at the heterotypic docking interface, which makes it unlikely to dock with the Cx26 hemichannel properly. Our experimental data showed that Cx26-red fluorescent protein (RFP) and Cx32-GFP were able to traffic to cell-cell interfaces forming gap junction plaques and functional channels in transfected HeLa/N2A cells. However, Cx32N175Y-GFP exhibited mostly intracellular distribution and was occasionally observed in cell-cell junctions. Double patch clamp analysis demonstrated that Cx32N175Y did not form functional homotypic channels, and dye uptake assay indicated that Cx32N175Y could form hemichannels on the cell surface similar to wild-type Cx32. When Cx32N175Y-GFP- and Cx26-RFP-transfected cells were co-cultured, no colocalization was found at the cell-cell junctions between Cx32N175Y-GFP- and Cx26-RFP-expressing cells; also, no functional Cx32N175Y-GFP/Cx26-RFP heterotypic channels were identified. Both our modeling and experimental data suggest that Asn(175) of Cx32 is a critical residue for heterotypic docking and functional gap junction channel formation between the Cx32 and Cx26 hemichannels.
Project description:Mutations in connexin 26 (Cx26) hemichannels can lead to syndromic deafness that affects the cochlea and skin. These mutations lead to gain-of-function hemichannel phenotypes by unknown molecular mechanisms. In this study, we investigate the biophysical properties of the syndromic mutant Cx26G12R (G12R). Unlike wild-type Cx26, G12R macroscopic hemichannel currents do not saturate upon depolarization, and deactivation is faster during hyperpolarization, suggesting that these channels have impaired fast and slow gating. Single G12R hemichannels show a large increase in open probability, and transitions to the subconductance state are rare and short-lived, demonstrating an inoperative fast gating mechanism. Molecular dynamics simulations indicate that G12R causes a displacement of the N terminus toward the cytoplasm, favoring an interaction between R12 in the N terminus and R99 in the intracellular loop. Disruption of this interaction recovers the fast and slow voltage-dependent gating mechanisms. These results suggest that the mechanisms of fast and slow gating in connexin hemichannels are coupled and provide a molecular mechanism for the gain-of-function phenotype displayed by the syndromic G12R mutation.
Project description:Mutations in human connexin (Cx) genes have been related to diseases, which we termed connexinopathies. Such hereditary disorders include nonsyndromic or syndromic deafness (Cx26, Cx30), Charcot Marie Tooth disease (Cx32), occulodentodigital dysplasia and cardiopathies (Cx43), and cataracts (Cx46, Cx50). Despite the clinical phenotypes of connexinopathies have been well documented, their pathogenic molecular determinants remain elusive. The purpose of this work is to identify common/uncommon patterns in channels function among Cx mutations linked to human diseases. To this end, we compiled and discussed the effect of mutations associated to Cx26, Cx32, Cx43, and Cx50 over gap junction channels and hemichannels, highlighting the function of the structural channel domains in which mutations are located and their possible role affecting oligomerization, gating and perm/selectivity processes.
Project description:The mechanisms of action of endogenous modulatory ligands of connexin channels are largely unknown. Previous work showed that protonated aminosulfonates (AS), notably taurine, directly and reversibly inhibit homomeric and heteromeric channels that contain Cx26, a widely distributed connexin, but not homomeric Cx32 channels. The present study investigated the molecular mechanisms of connexin channel modulation by taurine, using hemichannels and junctional channels composed of Cx26 (homomeric) and Cx26/Cx32 (heteromeric). The addition of a 28-amino acid "tag" to the carboxyl-terminal domain (CT) of Cx26 (Cx26(T)) eliminated taurine sensitivity of homomeric and heteromeric hemichannels in cells and liposomes. Cleavage of all but four residues of the tag (Cx26(Tc)) resulted in taurine-induced pore narrowing in homomeric hemichannels, and restored taurine inhibition of heteromeric hemichannels (Cx26(Tc)/Cx32). Taurine actions on junctional channels were fully consistent with those on hemichannels. Taurine-induced inhibition of Cx26/Cx32(T) and nontagged Cx26 junctional channels was blocked by extracellular HEPES, a blocker of the taurine transporter, confirming that the taurine-sensitive site of Cx26 is cytoplasmic. Nuclear magnetic resonance of peptides corresponding to Cx26 cytoplasmic domains showed that taurine binds to the cytoplasmic loop (CL) and not the CT, and that the CT and CL directly interact. ELISA showed that taurine disrupts a pH-dependent interaction between the CT and the CT-proximal half of the CL. These studies reveal that AS disrupt a pH-driven cytoplasmic interdomain interaction in Cx26-containing channels, causing closure, and that the Cx26CT has a modulatory role in Cx26 function.