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J Gen Physiol. 2006 Jan;127(1):67-75.

Regulation of connexin hemichannels by monovalent cations.

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  • 1State University of New York College of Optometry, New York, NY 10036, USA.

Abstract

Opening of connexin hemichannels in the plasma membrane is highly regulated. Generally, depolarization and reduced extracellular Ca2+ promote hemichannel opening. Here we show that hemichannels formed of Cx50, a principal lens connexin, exhibit a novel form of regulation characterized by extraordinary sensitivity to extracellular monovalent cations. Replacement of extracellular Na+ with K+, while maintaining extracellular Ca2+ constant, resulted in >10-fold potentiation of Cx50 hemichannel currents, which reversed upon returning to Na+. External Cs+, Rb+, NH4+, but not Li+, choline, or TEA, exhibited a similar effect. The magnitude of potentiation of Cx50 hemichannel currents depended on the concentration of extracellular Ca2+, progressively decreasing as external Ca2+ was reduced. The primary effect of K+ appears to be a reduction in the ability of Ca2+, as well as other divalent cations, to close Cx50 hemichannels. Cx46 hemichannels exhibited a modest increase upon substituting Na+ with K+. Analyses of reciprocal chimeric hemichannels that swap NH2- and COOH-terminal halves of Cx46 and Cx50 demonstrate that the difference in regulation by monovalent ions in these connexins resides in the NH2-terminal half. Connexin hemichannels have been implicated in physiological roles, e.g., release of ATP and NAD+ and in pathological roles, e.g., cell death through loss or entry of ions and signaling molecules. Our results demonstrate a new, robust means of regulating hemichannels through a combination of extracellular monovalent and divalent cations, principally Na+, K+, and Ca2+.

PMID:
16380444
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2151478
Free PMC Article
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