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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Jun 10;1711(2):208-14. Epub 2004 Oct 22.

Gap junction- and hemichannel-independent actions of connexins.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Health Science Center, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA.


Connexins have been known to be the protein building blocks of gap junctions and mediate cell-cell communication. In contrast to the conventional dogma, recent evidence suggests that in addition to forming gap junction channels, connexins possess gap junction-independent functions. One important gap junction-independent function for connexins is to serve as the major functional component for hemichannels, the un-apposed halves of gap junctions. Hemichannels, as independent functional units, play roles that are different from that of gap junctions in the cell. The other functions of connexins appear to be gap junction- and hemichannel-independent. Published studies implicate the latter functions of connexins in cell growth, differentiation, tumorigenicity, injury, and apoptosis, although the mechanistic aspects of these actions remain largely unknown. In this review, gap junction- and hemichannel-independent functions of connexins are summarized, and the molecular mechanisms underlying these connexin functions are speculated and discussed.

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