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Integr Biol (Camb). 2011 Apr;3(4):255-66. doi: 10.1039/c0ib00158a. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

Connexins and the gap in context.

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Division of Life Sciences, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Gap junctions (GJ) can no longer be thought of as simple channel forming structures that mediate intercellular communication. Hemi-channel and channel-independent functions of connexins (Cxs) have been described and numerous Cx interacting partners have been uncovered ranging from enzymes to structural and scaffolding molecules to transcription factors. With the growing number of Cx partners and functions, including well-documented roles for Cxs as conditional tumor suppressors, it has become essential to understand how Cxs are regulated in a context-dependent manner to mediate distinct functions. In this review we will shed light on the tissue and context-dependent regulation and function of Cxs and on the importance of Cx-interactions in modulating tissue-specific function. We will emphasize how the context-dependent functions of Cxs can help in understanding the impact of Cx mis-expression on cancer development and, ultimately, explore whether Cxs can be used as potential therapeutic targets in cancer treatment. In the end, we will address the need for developing relevant assays for studying Cx and GJ functions and will highlight how advances in bioengineering tools and the design of 3D biological platforms can help studying gap junction function in real time in a non-intrusive manner.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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