Gap junction (GJ) channels mediate direct cell-cell diffusion of cytosolic ions and molecules. Each channel is la multimer of connexin (Cx) proteins that forms an intercellular pore by docking two hemichannels. Our goal is to elucidate the mechanisms underlying GJ channel formation and gating that will aid in understanding the role of GJs in normal and disease states. We will examine cells expressing wild type Cxs and Cxs fused with color variants of green fluorescent protein (Cx-GFP) or Cxs containing the tetracysteine motif (Cx-TC).
Specific Aim 1 focuses on formation and function of junctional plaques (JPs). We propose that clustering of GJ channels into JP is central to their ability to function. We will test the hypothesis that JP formation starts with aggregation of hemichannels into hemichannel plaques (HPs), followed by superposition of HPs from apposing cells, hemichannel docking and channel pore opening. We will determine: 1) the correlation between the size of a JP and functional coupling, 2) the minimal (critical) size of a JP that is required for GJ channels to function, and 3) the spatial distribution of functional GJ channels within a JP by examining fluorescence induced by interaction of Cx-TC or Cx-GFP with fluorescent dyes moving through GJ channels. We will test the hypothesis that JPs grow by laterally attracting (trapping) hemichannels dispersed in the plasma membrane and will examine whether calmodulin (CAM) interacts and co-localizes with GJ channels to regulate JP formation and coupling, directly or through [Ca2+]I and CaM-kinase.
Specific Aim 2 focuses on gating and permeability properties of GJ channels. We propose that there are two distinct gating mechanisms in GJs, fast and slow, and we will examine their biophysical properties in Cxs expressed in CNS. Closure of the fast gate leaves a residual conductance and we will examine conductance and selectivity of open and residual states to assess the electrical barrier/s and channel pore size when the fast gate is closed. We will examine whether the fast Vi gate can serve as a selectivity filter, which partially reduces electrical cell-cell signaling but restricts metabolic communication and chemical signaling.
In Specific Aim 3, we will examine conditions under which some heterotypic junctions exhibit nearly unidirectional electrical signaling and may function as rectifying electrical synapses. We will test the hypothesis that electrical signaling asymmetry and metabolic communication can be effectively modulated through a relatively small change in the difference between pre- and postsynaptic resting potentials. Genetic disorders that have been linked to Cx dysfunction include X-linked Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, sensorineural deafness, congenital cataractogenesis, etc. Abnormalities in GJ channels play a key role in generating cardiac arrhythmias, uterine malfunction, epileptic seizures and malignant cell growth.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Neurosciences 2 (MDCN)
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Silberberg, Shai D
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Albert Einstein College of Medicine
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Palacios-Prado, Nicolas; Briggs, Stephen W; Skeberdis, Vytenis A et al. (2010) pH-dependent modulation of voltage gating in connexin45 homotypic and connexin45/connexin43 heterotypic gap junctions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107:9897-902
Garre, Juan M; Retamal, Mauricio A; Cassina, Patricia et al. (2010) FGF-1 induces ATP release from spinal astrocytes in culture and opens pannexin and connexin hemichannels. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107:22659-64
Palacios-Prado, Nicolas; Sonntag, Stephan; Skeberdis, Vytenis A et al. (2009) Gating, permselectivity and pH-dependent modulation of channels formed by connexin57, a major connexin of horizontal cells in the mouse retina. J Physiol 587:3251-69
Palacios-Prado, Nicolas; Bukauskas, Feliksas F (2009) Heterotypic gap junction channels as voltage-sensitive valves for intercellular signaling. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:14855-60
Paulauskas, Nerijus; Pranevicius, Mindaugas; Pranevicius, Henrikas et al. (2009) A stochastic four-state model of contingent gating of gap junction channels containing two ""fast"" gates sensitive to transjunctional voltage. Biophys J 96:3936-48
Sonntag, Stephan; Söhl, Goran; Dobrowolski, Radoslaw et al. (2009) Mouse lens connexin23 (Gje1) does not form functional gap junction channels but causes enhanced ATP release from HeLa cells. Eur J Cell Biol 88:65-77
Dobrowolski, Radoslaw; Sasse, Philipp; Schrickel, Jan W et al. (2008) The conditional connexin43G138R mouse mutant represents a new model of hereditary oculodentodigital dysplasia in humans. Hum Mol Genet 17:539-54
Rackauskas, Mindaugas; Verselis, Vytas K; Bukauskas, Feliksas F (2007) Permeability of homotypic and heterotypic gap junction channels formed of cardiac connexins mCx30.2, Cx40, Cx43, and Cx45. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 293:H1729-36
Rackauskas, Mindaugas; Kreuzberg, Maria M; Pranevicius, Mindaugas et al. (2007) Gating properties of heterotypic gap junction channels formed of connexins 40, 43, and 45. Biophys J 92:1952-65
Kreuzberg, Maria M; Willecke, Klaus; Bukauskas, Feliksas F (2006) Connexin-mediated cardiac impulse propagation: connexin 30.2 slows atrioventricular conduction in mouse heart. Trends Cardiovasc Med 16:266-72

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