Six innexins contribute to electrical coupling of C. elegans body-wall muscle.
ABSTRACT: C. elegans body-wall muscle cells are electrically coupled through gap junctions. Previous studies suggest that UNC-9 is an important, but not the only, innexin mediating the electrical coupling. Here we analyzed junctional current (I j ) for mutants of additional innexins to identify the remaining innexin(s) important to the coupling. The results suggest that a total of six innexins contribute to the coupling, including UNC-9, INX-1, INX-10, INX-11, INX-16, and INX-18. The I j deficiency in each mutant was rescued completely by expressing the corresponding wild-type innexin specifically in muscle, suggesting that the innexins function cell-autonomously. Comparisons of I j between various single, double, and triple mutants suggest that the six innexins probably form two distinct populations of gap junctions with one population consisting of UNC-9 and INX-18 and the other consisting of the remaining four innexins. Consistent with their roles in muscle electrical coupling, five of the six innexins showed punctate localization at muscle intercellular junctions when expressed as GFP- or epitope-tagged proteins, and muscle expression was detected for four of them when assessed by expressing GFP under the control of innexin promoters. The results may serve as a solid foundation for further explorations of structural and functional properties of gap junctions in C. elegans body-wall muscle.
Project description:Approximately 10% of Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system synapses are electrical, that is, gap junctions composed of innexins. The locomotory nervous system consists of several pairs of interneurons and three major classes of motor neurons, all with stereotypical patterns of connectivity that include gap junctions. Mutations in the two innexin genes unc-7 and unc-9 result in identical uncoordinated movement phenotypes, and their respective gene products were investigated for their contribution to electrical synapse connectivity.unc-7 encodes three innexin isoforms. Two of these, UNC-7S and UNC-7SR, are functionally equivalent and play an essential role in coordinated locomotion. UNC-7S and UNC-7SR are widely expressed and co-localize extensively with green fluorescent protein-tagged innexin UNC-9 in the ventral and dorsal nerve cords. A subset of UNC-7S/SR expression visualizes gap junctions formed between the AVB forward command interneurons and their B class motor neuron partners. Experiments indicate that expression of UNC-7S/SR in AVB and expression of UNC-9 in B motor neurons is necessary for these gap junctions to form. In Xenopus oocyte pairs, both UNC-7S and UNC-9 form homomeric gap junctions, and together they form heterotypic channels. Xenopus oocyte studies and co-localization studies in C. elegans suggest that UNC-7S and UNC-9 do not heteromerize in the same hemichannel, leading to the model that hemichannels in AVB:B motor neuron gap junctions are homomeric and heterotypic.UNC-7S and UNC-9 are widely expressed and contribute to a large number of the gap junctions identified in the locomotory nervous system. Proper AVB:B gap junction formation requires UNC-7S expression in AVB interneurons and UNC-9 expression in B motor neurons. More broadly, this illustrates that innexin identity is critical for electrical synapse specificity, but differential (compartmentalized) innexin expression cannot account for all of the specificity seen in C. elegans, and other factors must influence the determination of synaptic partners.
Project description:Gap junctions mediate the electrical coupling and intercellular communication between neighboring cells. Some gap junction proteins, namely connexins and pannexins in vertebrates, and innexins in invertebrates, may also function as hemichannels. A conserved NCA/Dm?1U/NALCN family cation leak channel regulates the excitability and activity of vertebrate and invertebrate neurons. In the present study, we describe a genetic and functional interaction between the innexin UNC-7 and the cation leak channel NCA in Caenorhabditis elegans neurons. While the loss of the neuronal NCA channel function leads to a reduced evoked postsynaptic current at neuromuscular junctions, a simultaneous loss of the UNC-7 function restores the evoked response. The expression of UNC-7 in neurons reverts the effect of the unc-7 mutation; moreover, the expression of UNC-7 mutant proteins that are predicted to be unable to form gap junctions also reverts this effect, suggesting that UNC-7 innexin regulates neuronal activity, in part, through gap junction-independent functions. We propose that, in addition to gap junction-mediated functions, UNC-7 innexin may also form hemichannels to regulate C. elegans' neuronal activity cooperatively with the NCA family leak channels.
Project description:In all animals examined, somatic cells of the gonad control multiple biological processes essential for germline development. Gap junction channels, composed of connexins in vertebrates and innexins in invertebrates, permit direct intercellular communication between cells and frequently form between somatic gonadal cells and germ cells. Gap junctions comprise hexameric hemichannels in apposing cells that dock to form channels for the exchange of small molecules. Here we report essential roles for two classes of gap junction channels, composed of five innexin proteins, in supporting the proliferation of germline stem cells and gametogenesis in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Transmission electron microscopy of freeze-fracture replicas and fluorescence microscopy show that gap junctions between somatic cells and germ cells are more extensive than previously appreciated and are found throughout the gonad. One class of gap junctions, composed of INX-8 and INX-9 in the soma and INX-14 and INX-21 in the germ line, is required for the proliferation and differentiation of germline stem cells. Genetic epistasis experiments establish a role for these gap junction channels in germline proliferation independent of the glp-1/Notch pathway. A second class of gap junctions, composed of somatic INX-8 and INX-9 and germline INX-14 and INX-22, is required for the negative regulation of oocyte meiotic maturation. Rescue of gap junction channel formation in the stem cell niche rescues germline proliferation and uncovers a later channel requirement for embryonic viability. This analysis reveals gap junctions as a central organizing feature of many soma-germline interactions in C. elegans.
Project description:Innexins are the subunits of invertebrate gap junctions. Here we show that the innexin INX-14 promotes sperm guidance to the fertilization site in the Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodite reproductive tract. inx-14 loss causes cell nonautonomous defects in sperm migration velocity and directional velocity. Results from genetic and immunocytochemical analyses provide strong evidence that INX-14 acts in transcriptionally active oocyte precursors in the distal gonad, not in transcriptionally inactive oocytes that synthesize prostaglandin sperm-attracting cues. Somatic gonadal sheath cell interaction is necessary for INX-14 function, likely via INX-8 and INX-9 expressed in sheath cells. However, electron microscopy has not identified gap junctions in oocyte precursors, suggesting that INX-14 acts in a channel-independent manner or INX-14 channels are difficult to document. INX-14 promotes prostaglandin signaling to sperm at a step after F-series prostaglandin synthesis in oocytes. Taken together, our results support the model that INX-14 functions in a somatic gonad/germ cell signaling mechanism essential for sperm function. We propose that this mechanism regulates the transcription of a factor(s) that modulates prostaglandin metabolism, transport, or activity in the reproductive tract.
Project description:Gap junctions are physical channels that connect adjacent cells, permitting the flow of small molecules/ions between the cytoplasms of the coupled units. Innexin/innexin-like proteins are responsible for the formation of invertebrate gap junctions. Within the nervous system, gap junctions often function as electrical synapses, providing a means for coordinating activity among electrically coupled neurons. While some gap junctions allow the bidirectional flow of small molecules/ions between coupled cells, others permit flow in one direction only or preferentially. The complement of innexins present in a gap junction determines its specific properties. Thus, understanding innexin diversity is key for understanding the full potential of electrical coupling in a species/system. The decapod crustacean cardiac ganglion (CG), which controls cardiac muscle contractions, is a simple pattern-generating neural network with extensive electrical coupling among its circuit elements. In the lobster, Homarus americanus, prior work suggested that the adult neuronal innexin complement consists of six innexins (Homam-Inx1-4 and Homam-Inx6-7). Here, using a H. americanus CG-specific transcriptome, we explored innexin complement in this portion of the lobster nervous system. With the exception of Homam-Inx4, all of the previously described innexins appear to be expressed in the H. americanus CG. In addition, transcripts encoding seven novel putative innexins (Homam-Inx8-14) were identified, four (Homam-Inx8-11) having multiple splice variants, e.g., six for Homam-Inx8. Collectively, these data indicate that the innexin complement of the lobster nervous system in general, and the CG specifically, is likely significantly greater than previously reported, suggesting the possibility of expanded gap junction diversity and function in H. americanus.
Project description:Gap junctions (GJ) mediate direct intercellular communication by forming channels through which certain small molecules and/or ions can pass. Connexins, the proteins that form vertebrate GJ, are well studied and known to contribute to neuronal, muscular and epithelial physiology. Innexins, the GJ proteins of insects, have only recently received much investigative attention and many of their physiological roles remain to be determined. Here we characterize the molecular expression of six innexin (Inx) genes in the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti (AeInx1, AeInx2, AeInx3, AeInx4, AeInx7, and AeInx8) and the immunochemical expression of one innexin protein, AeInx3, in the alimentary canal. We detected the expression of no less than four innexin genes in each mosquito life stage (larva, pupa, adult) and tissue/body region from adult males and females (midgut, Malpighian tubules, hindgut, head, carcass, gonads), suggesting a remarkable potential molecular diversity of GJ in mosquitoes. Moreover, the expression patterns of some innexins were life stage and/or tissue specific, suggestive of potential functional specializations. Cloning of the four full-length cDNAs expressed in the Malpighian tubules of adult females (AeInx1, AeInx2, AeInx3, and AeInx7) revealed evidence for 1) alternative splicing of AeInx1 and AeInx3 transcripts, and 2) putative N-glycosylation of AeInx3 and AeInx7. Finally, immunohistochemistry of AeInx3 in the alimentary canal of larval and adult female mosquitoes confirmed localization of this innexin to the intercellular regions of Malpighian tubule and hindgut epithelial cells, suggesting that it is an important component of GJ in these tissues.
Project description:Innexins in invertebrates are considered to play roles similar to those of connexins and pannexins in vertebrates. However, it remains poorly understood how innexins function in biological phenomena including their function in the nervous systems. Here, we identified inx-4, a member of the innexin family in C. elegans, by a forward screening of thermotaxis-defective mutants. The inx-4 mutants exhibited abnormal migration to a temperature slightly higher than the cultivation temperature, called mild thermophilic behavior. Rescue experiments revealed that INX-4 acts in the major thermosensory neuron AFD to regulate thermotaxis behavior. INX-4::GFP fusion protein localized exclusively along axons in AFD neurons. In addition, over-expression of INX-4 in AFD neurons induced a cryophilic behavior, which is opposite to inx-4 mutants. Our findings suggest that INX-4/Innexin in AFD may fine-tune the execution of thermotaxis behavior when moving to desired temperatures.
Project description:Innexins, a large protein family comprising invertebrate gap junction channels, play an essential role in nervous system development and electrical synapse formation. Here we report the cryo-electron microscopy structures of Caenorhabditis elegans innexin-6 (INX-6) gap junction channels at atomic resolution. We find that the arrangements of the transmembrane helices and extracellular loops of the INX-6 monomeric structure are highly similar to those of connexin-26 (Cx26), despite the lack of significant sequence similarity. The INX-6 gap junction channel comprises hexadecameric subunits but reveals the N-terminal pore funnel, consistent with Cx26. The helix-rich cytoplasmic loop and C-terminus are intercalated one-by-one through an octameric hemichannel, forming a dome-like entrance that interacts with N-terminal loops in the pore. These observations suggest that the INX-6 cytoplasmic domains are cooperatively associated with the N-terminal funnel conformation, and an essential linkage of the N-terminal with channel activity is presumably preserved across gap junction families.
Project description:Fifteen of the 21 innexin (Inx) genes (Hve-inx) found in the genome of the medicinal leech, Hirudo verbana, are expressed in the CNS (Kandarian et al., 2012). Two are expressed pan-neuronally, while the others are restricted in their expression to small numbers of cells, in some cases reflecting the membership of known networks of electrically coupled and dye-coupled neurons or glial cells. We report here that when Hve-inx genes characteristic of discrete coupled networks were expressed ectopically in neurons known not to express them, the experimental cells were found to become dye coupled with the other cells in that network. Hve-inx6 is normally expressed by only three neurons in each ganglion, which form strongly dye-coupled electrical connections with each other [Shortening-Coupling interneuron (S-CI) network] (Muller and Scott, 1981; Dykes and Macagno, 2006). But when Hve-inx6 was ectopically expressed in a variety of central embryonic neurons, those cells became dye coupled with the S-CI network. Similarly, Hve-inx2 is normally uniquely expressed by the ganglion's large glial cells, but when it was ectopically expressed in different central neurons, they became dye coupled to the glial cells. In contrast, overexpression of the pan-neuronal Inx genes Hve-inx1 and Hve-inx14 did not yield any novel instances of dye coupling to pre-existent neuronal networks. These results reveal that expression of certain innexins is sufficient to couple individual neurons to pre-existing networks in the CNS. We propose that a primary determinant of selective neuronal connectivity and circuit formation in the leech is the surface expression of unique subsets of gap junctional proteins.
Project description:Gap junctions consist of clusters of intercellular channels, which enable direct cell-to-cell communication and adhesion in animals. Whereas deuterostomes, including all vertebrates, use members of the connexin and pannexin multiprotein families to assemble gap junction channels, protostomes such as Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans use members of the innexin protein family. The molecular composition of innexin-containing gap junctions and the functional significance of innexin oligomerization for development are largely unknown. Here, we report that heteromerization of Drosophila innexins 2 and 3 is crucial for epithelial organization and polarity of the embryonic epidermis. Both innexins colocalize in epithelial cell membranes. Innexin3 is mislocalized to the cytoplasm in innexin2 mutants and is recruited into ectopic expression domains defined by innexin2 misexpression. Conversely, RNA interference (RNAi) knockdown of innexin3 causes mislocalization of innexin2 and of DE-cadherin, causing cell polarity defects in the epidermis. Biochemical interaction studies, surface plasmon resonance analysis, transgenesis, and biochemical fractionation experiments demonstrate that both innexins interact via their C-terminal cytoplasmic domains during the assembly of heteromeric channels. Our data provide the first molecular and functional demonstration that innexin heteromerization occurs in vivo and reveal insight into a molecular mechanism by which innexins may oligomerize into heteromeric gap junction channels.