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Hum Mol Genet. 2003 Dec 15;12(24):3287-94. Epub 2003 Oct 28.

Molecular interaction of connexin 30.3 and connexin 31 suggests a dominant-negative mechanism associated with erythrokeratodermia variabilis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cutaneous Biology, Dermatogenetic Unit, CHUV-BT 437, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Connexins are homologous four-transmembrane-domain proteins and major components of gap junctions. We recently identified mutations in either GJB3 or GJB4 genes, encoding respectively connexin 31 (Cx31) or 30.3 (Cx30.3), as causally involved in erythrokeratodermia variabilis (EKV), a mostly autosomal dominant disorder of keratinization. Despite slight differences, phenotypes of EKV Mendes Da Costa (Cx31) and EKV Cram-Mevorah (Cx30.3) show major clinical overlap and both Cx30.3 and Cx31 are expressed in the upper epidermal layers. These similarities suggested to us that Cx30.3 and Cx31 may interact at a molecular level. Indeed, expression of wild-type Cx30.3 in HeLa cell resulted only in minor amounts of protein addressed to the plasma membrane. Mutant Cx30.3 was hardly detectable and disturbed intercellular coupling. In sharp contrast, co-expression of both wild-type proteins led to a gigantic increase of stabilized heteromeric gap junctions. Furthermore, co-expressed wild-type Cx30.3 and Cx31 coprecipitate, which demonstrates a physical interaction. Inhibitor experiments revealed that this interaction begins in the endoplasmic reticulum. These results not only provide new insights into epidermal connexin synthesis and polymerization, but also allow a novel molecular explanation for the similarity of EKV phenotypes.

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