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Dev Genet. 1999;24(1-2):137-50.

Developmental expression and molecular characterization of two gap junction channel proteins expressed during embryogenesis in the grasshopper Schistocerca americana.

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1
Biology Department, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84112, USA. lazarillo@bioscience.utah.edu

Abstract

Gap junctions are membrane channels that directly connect the cytoplasm of neighboring cells, allowing the exchange of ions and small molecules. Two analogous families of proteins, the connexins and innexins, are the channel-forming molecules in vertebrates and invertebrates, respectively. In order to study the role of gap junctions in the embryonic development of the nervous system, we searched for innexins in the grasshopper Schistocerca americana. Here we present the molecular cloning and sequence analysis of two novel innexins, G-Inx(1) and G-Inx(2), expressed during grasshopper embryonic development. The analysis of G-Inx(1) and G-Inx(2) proteins suggests they bear four transmembrane domains, which show strong conservation in members of the innexin family. The study of the phylogenetic relationships between members of the innexin family and the new grasshopper proteins suggests that G-Inx(1) is orthologous to the Drosophila 1(1)-ogre. However, G-Inx(2) seems to be a member of a new group of insect innexins. We used in situ hybridization with the G-Inx(1) and G-Inx(2) cDNA clones, and two polyclonal sera raised against different regions of G-Inx(1) to study the mRNA and protein expression patterns and the subcellular localization of the grasshopper innexins. G-Inx(1) is primarily expressed in the embryonic nervous system, in neural precursors and glial cells. In addition, a restricted stripe of epithelial cells in the developing limb, involved in the guidance of sensory growth cones, expresses G-Inx(1). G-Inx(2) expression is more widespread in the grasshopper embryo, but a restricted expression is found in a subset of neural precursors. The generally different but partially overlapping expression patterns of G-Inx(1) and G-Inx(2) supports the combinatorial character of gap junction formation in invertebrates, an essential property to generate specificity in this form of cell-cell communication.

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