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Biochem J. 2006 Mar 15;394(Pt 3):527-43.

Life cycle of connexins in health and disease.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C1.


Evaluation of the human genome suggests that all members of the connexin family of gap-junction proteins have now been successfully identified. This large and diverse family of proteins facilitates a number of vital cellular functions coupled with their roles, which range from the intercellular propagation of electrical signals to the selective intercellular passage of small regulatory molecules. Importantly, the extent of gap-junctional intercellular communication is under the direct control of regulatory events associated with channel assembly and turnover, as the vast majority of connexins have remarkably short half-lives of only a few hours. Since most cell types express multiple members of the connexin family, compensatory mechanisms exist to salvage tissue function in cases when one connexin is mutated or lost. However, numerous studies of the last decade have revealed that mutations in connexin genes can also lead to severe and debilitating diseases. In many cases, single point mutations lead to dramatic effects on connexin trafficking, assembly and channel function. This review will assess the current understanding of wild-type and selected disease-linked mutant connexin transport through the secretory pathway, gap-junction assembly at the cell surface, internalization and degradation.

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