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Hum Mol Genet. 2009 Feb 1;18(3):428-39. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddn370. Epub 2008 Nov 10.

Cx36 makes channels coupling human pancreatic beta-cells, and correlates with insulin expression.

Author information

1
Surgical Research Unit, Department of Surgery, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.

Abstract

Previous studies have documented that the insulin-producing beta-cells of laboratory rodents are coupled by gap junction channels made solely of the connexin36 (Cx36) protein, and have shown that loss of this protein desynchronizes beta-cells, leading to secretory defects reminiscent of those observed in type 2 diabetes. Since human islets differ in several respects from those of laboratory rodents, we have now screened human pancreas, and islets isolated thereof, for expression of a variety of connexin genes, tested whether the cognate proteins form functional channels for islet cell exchanges, and assessed whether this expression changes with beta-cell function in islets of control and type 2 diabetics. Here, we show that (i) different connexin isoforms are differentially distributed in the exocrine and endocrine parts of the human pancreas; (ii) human islets express at the transcript level different connexin isoforms; (iii) the membrane of beta-cells harbors detectable levels of gap junctions made of Cx36; (iv) this protein is concentrated in lipid raft domains of the beta-cell membrane where it forms gap junctions; (v) Cx36 channels allow for the preferential exchange of cationic molecules between human beta-cells; (vi) the levels of Cx36 mRNA correlated with the expression of the insulin gene in the islets of both control and type 2 diabetics. The data show that Cx36 is a native protein of human pancreatic islets, which mediates the coupling of the insulin-producing beta-cells, and contributes to control beta-cell function by modulating gene expression.

PMID:
19000992
PMCID:
PMC2638800
DOI:
10.1093/hmg/ddn370
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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