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Cell Signal. 2006 May;18(5):592-600. Epub 2005 Sep 23.

Connexins and their channels in cell growth and cell death.

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Department of Toxicology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Laarbeeklaan 103, B-1090 Brussels, Belgium.


Direct communication between cells, mediated by gap junctions, is nowadays considered as an indispensable mechanism in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. In fact, gap junctional intercellular communication is actively involved in virtually all aspects of the cellular life cycle, ranging from cell growth to cell death. For a long time, it was believed that this was merely a result of the capacity of gap junctions to control the direct intercellular exchange of essential cellular messengers. However, recent data show that the picture is more complicated than initially thought, as structural precursors of gap junctions, connexins and gap junction hemichannels, can affect the cellular homeostatic balance independently of gap junctional intercellular communication. In this paper, we summarize the current knowledge concerning the roles of connexins and their channels in the control of cellular homeostasis, with the emphasis on cell growth and cell death. We also briefly discuss the role of gap junctional intercellular communication in carcinogenesis and the potential use of connexins as tools for cancer therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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