The connexin26 human mutation N14K disrupts cytosolic intersubunit interactions and promotes channel opening.
ABSTRACT: 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: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:Connexin26 (Cx26) mutations underlie human pathologies ranging from hearing loss to keratitis ichthyosis deafness (KID) syndrome. Cx26 hemichannels are directly gated by CO2 and contribute to the chemosensory regulation of breathing. The KID syndrome mutation A88V is insensitive to CO2, and has a dominant negative action on the CO2 sensitivity of Cx26WT hemichannels, and reduces respiratory drive in humans. We have now examined the effect of further human mutations of Cx26 on its sensitivity to CO2 : Mutated Cx26 subunits, carrying one of A88S, N14K, N14Y, M34T, or V84L, were transiently expressed in HeLa cells. The CO2-dependence of hemichannel activity, and their ability to exert dominant negative actions on cells stably expressing Cx26WT, was quantified by a dye-loading assay. The KID syndrome mutation, N14K, abolished the sensitivity of Cx26 to CO2 Both N14Y and N14K exerted a powerful dominant negative action on the CO2 sensitivity of Cx26WT None of the other mutations (all recessive) had a dominant negative action. A88S shifted the affinity of Cx26 to slightly higher levels without reducing its ability to fully open to CO2 M34T did not change the affinity of Cx26 for CO2 but reduced its ability to open in response to CO2 V84L had no effect on the CO2-sensitivity of Cx26. Some pathological mutations of Cx26 can therefore alter the CO2 sensitivity of Cx26 hemichannels. The loss of CO2 sensitivity could contribute to pathology and consequent reduced respiratory drive could be an unrecognized comorbidity of these pathologies.
Project description:Mutations in the GJB2 gene-encoding connexin 26 (Cx26) have been linked to skin disorders and genetic deafness. However, the severity and type of the skin disorders caused by Cx26 mutations are heterogeneous. Here we explored the effect of Cx26 KID syndrome-associated mutations, G12R, S17F, and D50N on channel function. The Cx26 N14K mutation was also examined that is associated with deafness but has a skin disorder distinct from the KID syndrome mutations. The proteins were all expressed in Xenopus oocytes with levels equal to wild-type Cx26. The G12R, N14K, and D50N mutations resulted in larger hemichannel currents than the wild-type-expressing cells, but the S17F mutation resulted in a complete loss of hemichannel activity. Elevated hemichannel activity correlated with an increased cell death. This result could be reversed through the elevation of calcium (Ca2+) in the extracellular media. Functional gap junctions were only produced by paired N14K cells, which had a similar conductance level to wild type, even though they exhibited a complete loss of voltage sensitivity. This set of data confirms that aberrant hemichannel activity is a common feature of Cx26 mutations associated with KID syndrome, and this may contribute to a loss of cell viability and tissue integrity.
Project description:Mutations in Cx26 gene are found in most cases of human genetic deafness. Some mutations produce syndromic deafness associated with skin disorders, like the Keratitis-Ichthyosis-Deafness syndrome (KID). Because in the human skin connexin 26 (Cx26) is co-expressed with other connexins, like Cx43 and Cx30, and as the KID syndrome is inherited as autosomal dominant condition, it is possible that KID mutations change the way Cx26 interacts with other co-expressed connexins. Indeed, some Cx26 syndromic mutations showed gap junction dominant negative effect when co-expressed with wild-type connexins, including Cx26 and Cx43. The nature of these interactions and the consequences on hemichannels and gap junction channel (GJC) functions remain unknown. In this study, we demonstrate that syndromic mutations, at the N terminus segment of Cx26, change connexin oligomerization compatibility, allowing aberrant interactions with Cx43. Strikingly, heteromeric oligomer formed by Cx43/Cx26 (syndromic mutants) shows exacerbated hemichannel activity but nonfunctional GJCs; this also occurs for those Cx26 KID mutants that do not show functional homomeric hemichannels. Heterologous expression of these hyperactive heteromeric hemichannels increases cell membrane permeability, favoring ATP release and Ca(2+) overload. The functional paradox produced by oligomerization of Cx43 and Cx26 KID mutants could underlie the severe syndromic phenotype in human skin.
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.
Project description:Germline missense mutations in GJB2 encoding connexin (Cx) 26 have been found in keratitis, ichthyosis and deafness (KID) syndrome. We explored the effects of three mouse Cx26 mutants (Cx26-G12R, -G45E and -D50N) corresponding to KID syndrome-causative human mutants on hemichannel activities leading to cell death and the expression of immune response-associated genes. We analyzed the 3D images of cells expressing wild-type (WT) or mutant Cx26 molecules to demonstrate clearly the intracellular localization of Cx26 mutants and hemichannel formation. High extracellular Ca2+ conditions lead to the closure of gap junction hemichannels in Cx26-G12R or Cx26-G45E expressing cells, resulting in prohibition of the Cx26 mutant-induced cell death. Fluorescent dye uptake assays revealed that cells with Cx26-D50N had aberrantly high hemichannel activities, which were abolished by a hemichannel blocker, carbenoxolone and 18?-Glycyrrhetinic acid. These results further support the idea that abnormal hemichannel activities play important roles in the pathogenesis of KID syndrome. Furthermore, we revealed that the expressions of IL15, CCL5, IL1A, IL23R and TLR5 are down-regulated in keratinocytes expressing Cx26-D50N, suggesting that immune deficiency in KID syndrome expressing Cx26-D50N might be associated not only with skin barrier defects, but also with the down-regulated expression of immune response-related genes.
Project description:Connexin (Cx) proteins form intercellular gap junction channels by first assembling into single membrane hemichannels that then dock to connect the cytoplasm of two adjacent cells. Gap junctions are highly specialized structures that allow the direct passage of small molecules between cells to maintain tissue homeostasis. Functional activity of nonjunctional hemichannels has now been shown in several experimental systems. Hemichannels may constitute an important diffusional exchange pathway with the extracellular space, but the extent of their normal physiological role is currently unknown. Aberrant hemichannel activity has been linked to mutations of connexin proteins involved in genetic diseases. Here, we review a proposed role for hemichannels in the pathogenesis of Keratitis-Ichthyosis-Deafness (KID) syndrome associated with connexin26 (Cx26) mutations. Continued functional evaluation of mutated hemichannels linked to human hereditary disorders may provide additional insights into the mechanisms governing their regulation in normal physiology and dysregulation in disease. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The Communicating junctions, composition, structure and characteristics.
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:Background: Mutations leading to changes in properties, regulation, or expression of connexin-made channels have been implicated in 28 distinct human hereditary diseases. Eight of these result from variants of connexin 26 (Cx26), a protein critically involved in cell-cell signaling in the inner ear and skin. Lack of non-toxic drugs with defined mechanisms of action poses a serious obstacle to therapeutic interventions for diseases caused by mutant connexins. In particular, molecules that specifically modulate connexin hemichannel function without affecting gap junction channels are considered of primary importance for the study of connexin hemichannel role in physiological as well as pathological conditions. Monoclonal antibodies developed in the last three decades have become the most important class of therapeutic biologicals. Recombinant methods permit rapid selection and improvement of monoclonal antibodies from libraries with large diversity. Methods: By screening a combinatorial library of human single-chain fragment variable (scFv) antibodies expressed in phage, we identified a candidate that binds an extracellular epitope of Cx26. We characterized antibody action using a variety of biochemical and biophysical assays in HeLa cells, organotypic cultures of mouse cochlea and human keratinocyte-derived cells. Results: We determined that the antibody is a remarkably efficient, non-toxic, and completely reversible inhibitor of hemichannels formed by connexin 26 and does not affect direct cell-cell communication via gap junction channels. Importantly, we also demonstrate that the antibody efficiently inhibits hyperative mutant Cx26 hemichannels implicated in autosomal dominant non-syndromic hearing impairment accompanied by keratitis and hystrix-like ichthyosis-deafness (KID/HID) syndrome. We solved the crystal structure of the antibody, identified residues that are critical for binding and used molecular dynamics to uncover its mechanism of action. Conclusions: Although further studies will be necessary to validate the effect of the antibody in vivo, the methodology described here can be extended to select antibodies against hemichannels composed by other connexin isoforms and, consequently, to target other pathologies associated with hyperactive hemichannels. Our study highlights the potential of this approach and identifies connexins as therapeutic targets addressable by screening phage display libraries expressing human randomized antibodies.
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.