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Neuroscience. 2007 Jul 29;147(4):938-56. Epub 2007 Jul 2.

Identification of connexin36 in gap junctions between neurons in rodent locus coeruleus.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Campus Delivery 1617, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


Locus coeruleus neurons are strongly coupled during early postnatal development, and it has been proposed that these neurons are linked by extraordinarily abundant gap junctions consisting of connexin32 (Cx32) and connexin26 (Cx26), and that those same connexins abundantly link neurons to astrocytes. Based on the controversial nature of those claims, immunofluorescence imaging and freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling were used to re-investigate the abundance and connexin composition of neuronal and glial gap junctions in developing and adult rat and mouse locus coeruleus. In early postnatal development, connexin36 (Cx36) and connexin43 (Cx43) immunofluorescent puncta were densely distributed in the locus coeruleus, whereas Cx32 and Cx26 were not detected. By freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling, Cx36 was found in ultrastructurally-defined neuronal gap junctions, whereas Cx32 and Cx26 were not detected in neurons and only rarely detected in glia. In 28-day postnatal (adult) rat locus coeruleus, immunofluorescence labeling for Cx26 was always co-localized with the glial gap junction marker Cx43; Cx32 was associated with the oligodendrocyte marker 2',3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase (CNPase); and Cx36 was never co-localized with Cx26, Cx32 or Cx43. Ultrastructurally, Cx36 was localized to gap junctions between neurons, whereas Cx32 was detected only in oligodendrocyte gap junctions; and Cx26 was found only rarely in astrocyte junctions but abundantly in pia mater. Thus, in developing and adult locus coeruleus, neuronal gap junctions contain Cx36 but do not contain detectable Cx32 or Cx26, suggesting that the locus coeruleus has the same cell-type specificity of connexin expression as observed ultrastructurally in other regions of the CNS. Moreover, in both developing and adult locus coeruleus, no evidence was found for gap junctions or connexins linking neurons with astrocytes or oligodendrocytes, indicating that neurons in this nucleus are not linked to the pan-glial syncytium by Cx32- or Cx26-containing gap junctions or by abundant free connexons composed of those connexins.

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