Connexinopathies: a structural and functional glimpse.
ABSTRACT: 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 incidence of malignant melanoma, one of the deadliest cancers, continues to increase. Here we tested connexin (Cx) expression in primary melanocytes, melanoma cell lines and in a common nevus, dysplastic nevus, and thin, thick, and metastatic melanoma tumor progression series involving the tumor microenvironment by utilizing in silico analysis, qRT-PCR, immunocyto-/histochemistry and dye transfer tests. Primary melanocytes expressed GJA1/Cx43, GJA3/Cx46 and low levels of GJB2/Cx26 and GJC3/Cx30.2 transcripts. In silico data revealed downregulation of GJA1/Cx43 and GJB2/Cx26 mRNA, in addition to upregulated GJB1/Cx32, during melanoma progression. In three melanoma cell lines, we also showed the loss of GJA1/Cx43 and the differential expression of GJB1/Cx32, GJB2/Cx26, GJA3/Cx46 and GJC3/Cx30.2. The dominantly paranuclear localization of connexin proteins explained the ~10?90 times less melanoma cell coupling compared to melanocytes. In melanocytic tumor tissues, we confirmed the loss of Cx43 protein, fall of cell membrane and elevated paranuclear Cx32 with moderately increased cytoplasmic Cx26 and paranuclear Cx30.2 positivity during tumor progression. Furthermore, we found Cx43, Cx26 and Cx30 proteins upregulated in the melanoma adjacent epidermis, and Cx43 in the tumor flanking vessels. Therefore, differential connexin expression is involved in melanocytic tumor progression where varying connexin isotypes and levels reflect tumor heterogeneity-related bidirectional adaptive interactions with the microenvironment.
Project description:Folliculostellate cell gap junctions establish a network for the transmission of information within the anterior pituitary. Connexins make up gap junction channels. Changes in connexin (Cx) turnover modify gap junction-mediated intercellular communication. We have reported that cytokines and hormones influence Cx43 turnover and coupling in folliculostellate cells and in the folliculostellate cell line TtT/GF. In addition, the expression of different connexins alters intercellular communication and connexins may have functions besides cell coupling. Here we assessed the expression, turnover and subcellular localization of Cx46 and Cx50 in the anterior pituitary and TtT/GF cells. Then, we assessed the impact of various natural (lactation, annual reproductive cycle, bFGF) and pathological (autoimmune orchitis, diabetes/obesity) conditions associated with altered anterior pituitary hormone secretion on Cx46 and Cx50. Anterior pituitary Cx46 and Cx50 expression and subcellular distribution were cell-dependent. Cx46 was expressed by folliculostellate, TtT/GF and endocrine cells. In the cytoplasm, Cx46 was chiefly associated with lysosomes. Variously sized Cx46 molecules were recovered exclusively in the TtT/GF cell nuclear fraction. In the nucleus, Cx46 co-localized with Nopp-140, a nucleolar factor involved in rRNA processing. Neither cytoplasmic nor nuclear Cx46 and Cx43 co-localized. Cx50 localized to folliculostellate and TtT/GF cells, and to the walls of blood capillaries, not to endocrine cells. Cx50 was cytoplasmic and associated with the cell membrane, not nuclear. Cx50 did not co-localize with Cx46 but it co-localized in the cytoplasm and co-immunoprecipitated with Cx43. Cx46 and Cx50 responses to various physiological and pathological challenges were different, often opposite. Cx46 and Cx43 expression and phosphorylation profiles differed in the anterior pituitary, whereas Cx50 and Cx43 were similar. The data suggest that Cx46 participates to cellular growth and proliferation and that Cx50, together with Cx43, contributes to folliculostellate cell coupling.
Project description:The biogenesis of connexins and their assembly into functional gap junction hemichannels (connexons) was studied with the use of a cell-free transcription/translation system. Velocity sedimentation on sucrose gradients showed that a small proportion of connexin (Cx) 26 and Cx32 that were co-translationally translocated into microsomes were oligomers of Cx26 and Cx32. Chemical cross-linking studies showed that these corresponded to hexameric connexons. Reconstitution of connexons synthesized in vitro into liposomes induced permeability properties consistent with the view that open gap junction hemichannels were produced. By using an immunoprecipitation approach, a simultaneous translation of Cx26 and Cx32 incorporated into microsomes resulted in homomeric connexons. However, supplementation of the translation system in vitro with liver Golgi membranes produced heteromeric connexons constructed of Cx32 and Cx26, and also resulted in an increased oligomerization especially of Cx32. All of the connexins analysed were inserted co-translationally into canine pancreatic microsomal membranes. In addition, Cx26 and Cx43, but not Cx32, were also inserted into microsomal membranes post-translationally. Analysis of various connexin constructs in which the cytoplasmic carboxy tails were transposed, the cytoplasmic tail of Cx43 was truncated or a reporter protein, aequorin, was attached to the C-terminus showed that tail length was not the major determinant of the post-translational membrane insertion of connexins.
Project description:The connexin carboxyl-terminal (CxCT) domain plays a role in the trafficking, localization, and turnover of gap junction channels, as well as the level of gap junction intercellular communication via numerous post-translational modifications and protein-protein interactions. As a key player in the regulation of gap junctions, the CT presents itself as a target for manipulation intended to modify function. Specific to intrinsically disordered proteins, identifying residues whose secondary structure can be manipulated will be critical toward unlocking the therapeutic potential of the CxCT domain. To accomplish this goal, we used biophysical methods to characterize CxCT domains attached to their fourth transmembrane domain (TM4). Circular dichroism and nuclear magnetic resonance were complementary in demonstrating the connexin isoforms that form the greatest amount of ?-helical structure in their CT domain (Cx45 > Cx43 > Cx32 > Cx50 > Cx37 ? Cx40 ? Cx26). Studies compared the influence of 2,2,2-trifluoroethanol, pH, phosphorylation, and mutations (Cx32, X-linked Charcot-Marie Tooth disease; Cx26, hearing loss) on the TM4-CxCT structure. While pH modestly influences the CT structure, a major structural change was associated with phosphomimetic substitutions. Since most connexin CT domains are phosphorylated throughout their life cycle, studies of phospho-TM4-CxCT isoforms will be critical toward understanding the role that structure plays in regulating gap junction function.
Project description:Direct evidence of the critical physiological role of connexins (Cxs) has come through the associations of several human diseases with pathogenic mutations in specific Cx genes. Currently, mutations in genes coding for five Cx proteins (Cx26, Cx30, Cx31, Cx32, and Cx43) have been shown to cause sensorineural hearing loss. Cx45 is another gap junction protein, coded by the GJA7 gene. To investigate the possible contribution of GJA7 mutations to deafness, we sequenced the GJA7 gene in 341 unrelated probands with nonsyndromic hearing loss from Turkey, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, and China. Three nucleotide variants not affecting the amino acid sequence, c.213C>T, c.906C>T, and c.912G>T, and one missense change, c.889C>A (p.D297N), were found. None of the identified changes appeared to be pathogenic. Our data suggest that GJA7 alterations have no or low genetic relevance in nonsyndromic hearing loss in these populations.
Project description:Connexins (Cx) are essential for cardiovascular regulation and maintenance of cardio-renal response involving the natriuretic peptide family. Changes in the expression of connexins promote intercellular communication dysfunction and may induce hypertension, atherosclerosis, and several other vascular diseases. This study analyzed the expression of the genes involved in the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and the relation of the connexins gene expression with the renovascular hypertension 2K1C in different tissues. The insertion of a silver clip induced renovascular hypertension 2K1C into the left renal artery. Biochemical measurements were made using commercial kits. Gene expression was evaluated in the liver, heart, and kidneys by RT-PCR. The genes investigated were LDLr, Hmgcr, Agt, Ren, Ace, Agtr1a, Anp, Bnp, Npr1, Cx26, Cx32, Cx37, Cx40 and Cx43. All genes involved in the RAS presented increased transcriptional levels in the 2K1C group, except hepatic Agt. The natriuretic peptides (Anp; Bnp) and the receptor genes (Npr1) appeared to increase in the heart, however, Npr1 decreased in the kidneys. In hepatic tissue, hypertension promoted increased expression of Cx32, Cx37, and Cx40 genes however, Cx26 and Cx43 genes were not influenced. Expression was upregulated for Cx37 and Cx43 in cardiac tissue in the 2K1C group, but Cx40 did not demonstrate any difference between groups. The stenotic kidney showed an upregulated expression for Cx37 vs Sham and contralateral kidney, although Cx40 and Cx43 were downregulated. Hypertension did not modify the transcriptional expression of Cx26 and Cx32. Therefore, this study indicated that RAS and cardiac response were regulated transcriptionally by renovascular hypertension 2K1C. Moreover, the results of connexin gene expression demonstrated differential transcriptional regulation in different tissues studied and suggest a relationship between cardiac and renal physiological changes as an adaptive mechanism to the hypertensive state.
Project description:Connexins (Cx), which constitute gap junction intercellular channels in vertebrates, have been shown to suppress transformed cell growth and tumorigenesis, but the mechanism(s) still remain largely speculative. Here, we define the molecular basis by which Cx26, but less frequently Cx43 or Cx32, selectively confer growth suppression on cancer cells. Functional intercellular coupling is shown to be required, producing partial blocks of the cell cycle due to prolonged activation of several mitogenic kinases. PKA is both necessary and sufficient for the Cx26 induced growth inhibition in low serum and the absence of anchorage. Activation of PKA was not associated with elevated cAMP levels, but appeared to result from a redistribution of cAMP throughout the cell population, eliminating the cell cycle oscillations in cAMP required for efficient cell cycle progression. Cx43 and Cx32 fail to mediate this redistribution as, unlike Cx26, these channels are closed during the G2/M phase of the cell cycle when cAMP levels peak. Comparisons of tumor cell lines indicate that this is a general pattern, with growth suppression by connexins occurring whenever cAMP oscillates with the cell cycle, and the gap junction remain open throughout the cell cycle. Thus, gap junctional coupling, in the absence of any external signals, provides a general means to limit the mitotic rate of cell populations.
Project description:In the ocular lens, gap junctional communication is a key component of homeostatic mechanisms preventing cataract formation. Gap junctions in rodent lens fibers contain two known intercellular channel-forming proteins, connexin50 (Cx50) and Cx46. Since targeted ablation of Cx46 has been shown to cause senile-type nuclear opacities, it appears that Cx50 alone cannot meet homeostatic requirements. To determine if lens pathology arises from a reduction in levels of communication or the loss of a connexin-specific function, we have generated mice with a targeted deletion of the Cx50 gene. Cx50-null mice exhibited microphthalmia and nuclear cataracts. At postnatal day 14 (P14), Cx50-knockout eyes weighed 32% less than controls, whereas lens mass was reduced by 46%. Cx50-knockout lenses also developed zonular pulverulent cataracts, and lens abnormalities were detected by P7. Deletion of Cx50 did not alter the amounts or distributions of Cx46 or Cx43, a component of lens epithelial junctions. In addition, intercellular passage of tracers revealed the persistence of communication between all cell types in the Cx50-knockout lens. These results demonstrate that Cx50 is required not only for maintenance of lens transparency but also for normal eye growth. Furthermore, these data indicate that unique functional properties of both Cx46 and Cx50 are required for proper lens development.
Project description:Gap junctions (GJ) are specialized cell-cell contacts formed by connexins (Cxs), which provide direct communication between adjacent cells. Cx43 ubiquitination has been suggested to induce the internalization of GJs, as well as the recruitment of the autophagy receptor p62 to mediate binding to LC3B and degradation by macroautophagy. In this report, we describe a functional LC3 interacting region (LIR), present in the amino terminal of most Cx protein family members, which can mediate the autophagy degradation of Cx43 without the need of ubiquitin. Mutation of the LIR motif on Cx37, Cx43, Cx46 and Cx50 impairs interaction with LC3B and GABARAP without compromising protein ubiquitination. Through in vitro protein-protein interaction assays, we demonstrate that this LIR motif is required for the binding of Cx43 to LC3B and GABARAP. Overall, our findings describe an alternative mechanism whereby Cxs interact with LC3/GABARAP proteins, envisioning a new model for the autophagy degradation of connexins.
Project description:Decreased fertility and birth rates arise from metabolic disorders. This study assesses cholesterol metabolism and Cx46, Cx50, and Cx43 expression in interstitium- and seminiferous tubule-enriched fractions of leptin-deficient ( ob/ob) and leptin receptor-deficient ( db/db) mice, two type 2 diabetes and obesity models associated with infertility. Testosterone levels decreased and glucose and free and esterified cholesterol (FC and EC) levels increased in serum, whereas FC and EC levels decreased in the interstitium, in ob/ob and db/db mice. In tubules, a decrease in EC caused FC-to-EC ratios to increase in db/db mice. In tubules, only acyl coenzyme A:cholesterol acyl transferase type 1 and 2 protein levels significantly decreased in ob/ob, but not db/db, mice compared with wild-type mice, and imbalances in the cholesterol transporters Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1), ATP-binding cassette A1 (ABCA1), scavenger receptor class B member I (SR-BI), and cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) were observed in ob/ob and db/db mice. In tubules, 14-kDa Cx46 prevailed during development, 48- to 49- and 68- to 71-kDa Cx46 prevailed during adulthood, and total Cx46 changed little. Compared with wild-type mice, 14-kDa Cx46 increased, whereas 48- to 49- and 68- to 71-kDa Cx46 decreased, in tubules, whereas the opposite occurred in the interstitium, in db/db and ob/ob mice. Total and 51-kDa Cx50 increased in db/db and ob/ob interstitium and tubules. Cx43 levels decreased in ob/ob interstitium and tubules, whereas Cx43 decreased in db/db interstitium but increased in db/db tubules. Apoptosis levels measured by ELISA and numbers of apostain-labeled apoptotic cells significantly increased in db/db, but not ob/ob, tubules. Testicular db/db capillaries were Cx50-positive but weakly Cx43-positive with a thickened lamina, suggesting altered permeability. Our findings indicate that the db mutation-induced impairment of meiosis may arise from imbalances in cholesterol metabolism and upregulated Cx43 expression and phosphorylation in tubules.