The N-terminal domain (NT, residues 1-22) is an important determinant of perm-selectivity and voltage-dependent gating of connexin channels and a sensitive mutational target underlying two common inherited diseases: X-linked Charcot-Marie-Tooth (Cx32) and nonsyndromic and syndromic deafness (Cx26). This proposal will determine how disease causing mutations in the NT of Cx32 and Cx26 alter channel function and channel biosynthesis by applying synergistic computational and experimental approaches. Differences in function between wild type and disease causing NT mutations are hypothesized to arise from specific changes in channel structure. The study will examine 9 NT loci comprising mutations in both Cx32 and Cx26. In several cases, mutations of the same locus alter Cx26 and Cx32 channel function differently, suggesting that identical or homologous amino acid substitutions cause different structural defects in the two connexins. Studies will be guided by the crystal structure of a Cx26 hemichannel and a Cx32 homology model, both refined by all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulation and shown to closely correspond to the structure of the biological open channel. The study will solve the structure of mutant NT peptides by 2D NMR. Structural solutions of longer wild-type and mutant peptides (NT-CL domain, residues 1-114) in a membrane environment by 3D NMR, and assembled channels by x-ray crystallography have been initiated. Resulting atomic models of connexin channels will be refined by all-atom MD simulations, the permeabilities to ions and second messengers determined computationally and compared to experimental. This experimental strategy provides a sensitive test of the accuracy of atomic models, insights into molecular mechanisms of perm-selectivity and how these are changed by mutation, as well as testable hypotheses of structure-function relations. The study will investigate the role of the NT in channel biogenesis by determining the position and stability of the NT of connexin subunits inserted into canine microsomal membranes, the role of the NT in subunit oligomerization, and when and how the NT assumes its final position deep within the pore of assembled hemichannels prior to plasma membrane insertion. Parallel computational studies will provide a rigorous mechanistic framework that will guide these experimental studies. This new, fundamental knowledge will provide a framework for understanding the molecular defects of the class of disease causing NT mutations that are not plasma membrane inserted but trapped in cytosolic compartments and targeted for degradation. The project is highly collaborative, bringing together investigators with proven expertise in structural determination, computational methods and biophysical characterization of connexin channels. The results will provide new information fundamental to the elucidation of connexin disease etiology and to the development of effective treatments.

Public Health Relevance

Mutations of human connexin genes are the cause of two common diseases, the X- linked form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT-X) and nonsyndromic and syndromic deafness also associated with fatal skin disorders. The studies will determine how disease causing mutations impair channel function and biosynthesis. The results will provide new information fundamental to defining the mechanisms of connexin diseases and to the development of effective treatments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Intercellular Interactions (ICI)
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Nie, Zhongzhen
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Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Batir, Yuksel; Bargiello, Thaddeus A; Dowd, Terry L (2016) Structural studies of N-terminal mutants of Connexin 26 and Connexin 32 using (1)H NMR spectroscopy. Arch Biochem Biophys 608:8-19
Batir, Yuksel; Bargiello, Thaddeus A; Dowd, Terry L (2016) NMR and structural data for Connexin 32 and Connexin 26 N-terminal peptides. Data Brief 9:470-476
Oh, Seunghoon; Bargiello, Thaddeus A (2015) Voltage regulation of connexin channel conductance. Yonsei Med J 56:1-15
Kwon, Taekyung; Tang, Qingxiu; Bargiello, Thaddeus A (2013) Voltage-dependent gating of the Cx32*43E1 hemichannel: conformational changes at the channel entrances. J Gen Physiol 141:243-59
Malashkevich, Vladimir N; Almo, Steven C; Dowd, Terry L (2013) X-ray crystal structure of bovine 3 Glu-osteocalcin. Biochemistry 52:8387-92
Kwon, Taekyung; Dowd, Terry L; Bargiello, Thaddeus A (2013) The carboxyl terminal residues 220-283 are not required for voltage gating of a chimeric connexin32 hemichannel. Biophys J 105:1376-82
Kalmatsky, B D; Batir, Y; Bargiello, T A et al. (2012) Structural studies of N-terminal mutants of connexin 32 using (1)H NMR spectroscopy. Arch Biochem Biophys 526:1-8