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Cell Commun Adhes. 2003 Jul-Dec;10(4-6):413-7.

Neuroprotective role of astrocytic gap junctions in ischemic stroke.

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Department of Pathology and Applied Neurobiology, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan.


The role of astrocytic gap junctions in ischemia remains controversial. Several studies support that astrocytic gap junctions play a role in the spread of hypoxic injury, while other reports have demonstrated that blocking astrocytic gap junctions increases neuronal death. Using a stroke model on animals in which the astrocytic gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) was compromised, we explored the neuroprotective role of astrocytic gap junctions. A focal brain stroke was performed on heterozygous Cx43 null [Cx43(+/-)] mice, wild type [Cx43(+/+)] mice, astrocyte-directed Cx43 deficient [Cx43(fl/ fl)/hGFAP-cre] mice (here designated as Cre(+) mice), and their corresponding controls [Cx43(fl/fl)] (here designated as Cre(-) mice). Four days following stroke, ischemic lesions were measured for size and analyzed immunohistochemically. Stroke volume was significantly larger in Cx43(+/-) and Cre(+) mice compared to Cx43(+/+) and Cre(-) mice, respectively. Apoptosis as detected by TUNEL labeling and caspase-3 immunostaining was amplified in Cx43(+/-) and Cre(+) mice compared to their control groups. Furthermore, increased inflammation as characterized by the immunohistochemical staining of the microglial marker CD11b was observed in the Cre(+) mice penumbra. Astrocytic gap junctions may reduce apoptosis and inflammation in the penumbra following ischemic insult, suggesting that coupled astrocytes fulfill a neuroprotective role under ischemic stroke conditions.

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