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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2007 May-Jun;94(1-2):207-18. Epub 2007 Mar 15.

Gap junction-mediated intercellular communication in the immune system.

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Division of Tumor Biology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Immune cells are usually considered non-attached blood cells, which would exclude the formation of gap junctions. This is a misconception since many immune cells express connexin 43 (Cx43) and other connexins and are often residing in tissue. The role of gap junctions is largely ignored by immunologists as is the immune system in the field of gap junction research. Here, the current knowledge of the distribution of connexins and the function of gap junctions in the immune system is discussed. Gap junctions appear to play many roles in antibody productions and specific immune responses and may be important in sensing danger in tissue by the immune system. Gap junctions not only transfer electrical and metabolical but also immunological information in the form of peptides for a process called cross-presentation. This is essential for proper immune responses to viruses and possibly tumours. Until now only 40 research papers on gap junctions in the immune system appeared and this will almost certainly expand with the increased mutual interest between the fields of immunology and gap junction research.

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