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J Immunol. 2006 Jan 1;176(1):181-90.

Gap junction-mediated intercellular communication between dendritic cells (DCs) is required for effective activation of DCs.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Yamanashi, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering Tamaho, Yamanashi, Japan.

Erratum in

  • J Immunol. 2006 Feb 15;176(4):2670.


Gap junctions, formed by members of the connexin (Cx) family, are intercellular channels allowing direct exchange of signaling molecules. Gap junction-mediated intercellular communication (GJIC) is a widespread mechanism for homeostasis in organs. GJIC in the immune system is not yet fully understood. Although dendritic cells (DC) reportedly form cell-to-cell contact between DCs in nonlymphoid and lymphoid organs, GJIC between DCs remains unknown. In this study we examined whether DCs form GJIC. XS52 and bone marrow-derived DCs (BMDCs) were tested for GJIC by counting intercellular transfer of Lucifer Yellow microinjected into a cell. Either DC became effectively dye-coupled when activated with LPS plus IFN-gamma or TNF-alpha plus IFN-gamma. LPS- plus IFN-gamma-induced dye-coupling was mediated by DC-derived TNF-alpha. In addition, CpG plus IFN-gamma induced dye-coupling in BMDCs, which was also mediated by DC-derived TNF-alpha. LPS- plus IFN-gamma-induced activation of DCs (assessed by CD40 expression) was observed when there was cell-to-cell contact and was significantly blocked by heptanol, a gap junction blocker. These results indicate that cell-to-cell contact and GJIC are required for effective DC activation. In addition, heptanol significantly inhibited the LPS- plus IFN-gamma-induced up-regulation of the other costimulatory (i.e., CD80 and CD86) and MHC class II molecules expressed by BMDCs, and it significantly reduced their allostimulatory capacity. Among Cx members, Cx43 was up-regulated in dye-coupled BMDCs, and Cx mimetic peptide, a blocker of Cx-mediated GJIC, significantly inhibited the dye-coupling and activation, suggesting the involvement of Cx43. Thus, our study provides the first evidence for GJIC between DCs, which is required for effective DC activation.

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