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Traffic. 2010 Nov;11(11):1471-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2010.01109.x. Epub 2010 Sep 10.

Trafficking and recycling of the connexin43 gap junction protein during mitosis.

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National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, Center for Research in Biological Systems, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.


During the cell cycle, gap junction communication, morphology and distribution of connexin43 (Cx43)-containing structures change dramatically. As cells round up in mitosis, Cx43 labeling is mostly intracellular and intercellular coupling is reduced. We investigated Cx43 distributions during mitosis both in endogenous and exogenous expressing cells using optical pulse-chase labeling, correlated light and electron microscopy, immunocytochemistry and biochemical analysis. Time-lapse imaging of green fluorescent protein (GFP)/tetracysteine tagged Cx43 (Cx43-GFP-4C) expressing cells revealed an early disappearance of gap junctions, progressive accumulation of Cx43 in cytoplasmic structures, and an unexpected subset pool of protein concentrated in the plasma membrane surrounding the midbody region in telophase followed by rapid reappearance of punctate plaques upon mitotic exit. These distributions were also observed in immuno-labeled endogenous Cx43-expressing cells. Photo-oxidation of ReAsH-labeled Cx43-GFP-4C cells in telophase confirmed that Cx43 is distributed in the plasma membrane surrounding the midbody as apparent connexons and in cytoplasmic vesicles. We performed optical pulse-chase labeling and single label time-lapse imaging of synchronized cells stably expressing Cx43 with internal tetracysteine domains through mitosis. In late telophase, older Cx43 is segregated mainly to the plasma membrane while newer Cx43 is intracellular. This older population nucleates new gap junctions permitting rapid resumption of communication upon mitotic exit.

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