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Biophys J. 2004 Oct;87(4):2397-406.

Exchange of gating properties between rat cx46 and chicken cx45.6.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Cx46 and Cx50 are coexpressed in lens fiber cells where they form fiber-fiber gap junctions. Recent studies have shown that both proteins play a critical role in maintaining lens transparency. Although both Cx46 and Cx50 (or its chicken ortholog, Cx45.6) show a high degree of sequence homology, they exhibit marked differences in gap junctional channel gating, unitary gap junctional channel conductance, and hemichannel gating. To better understand which regions of the protein are responsible for these functional differences, we have constructed a series of chimeric Cx46-Cx45.6 gap junctional proteins in which a single transmembrane or intracellular domain of Cx45.6 was replaced with the corresponding domain of Cx46, expressed them in Xenopus oocyte pairs or N2A cells, and examined the resulting gap junctional conductances. Our results showed that four out of six of the chimeras induced high levels of gap junctional coupling. Of these chimeras, only Cx45.6-46NT showed significant changes in voltage-dependent gating properties. Exchanging the N-terminus had multiple effects. It slowed the inactivation kinetics of the macroscopic junctional currents so that they resembled those of Cx46, reduced the voltage sensitivity of the steady-state junctional conductance, and decreased the conductance of single gap junctional channels. Additional point mutations identified a uniquely occurring arginine in the N-terminus of Cx46 as the main determinant for the change in voltage-dependent gating.

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