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J Cell Sci. 2011 Aug 1;124(Pt 15):2611-21. doi: 10.1242/jcs.089532. Epub 2011 Jul 12.

The gap junction protein Cx43 regulates B-lymphocyte spreading and adhesion.

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CELL and I³ Research Group, Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia, 2350 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada.


The gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) is widely expressed in mammalian cells and forms intercellular channels for the transfer of small molecules between adjacent cells, as well as hemichannels that mediate bidirectional transport of molecules between the cell and the surrounding environment. Cx43 regulates cell adhesion and migration in neurons and glioma cells, and we now show that Cx43 influences BCR-, LFA-1- and CXCL12-mediated activation of the Rap1 GTPase. Using shRNA knockdown of Cx43 in WEHI 231 cells, we show that Cx43 is required for sustained Rap1 activation and BCR-mediated spreading. To determine the domains of Cx43 that are important for this effect, Cx43-null J558 μm3 B cells (which express a wild-type IgM BCR) were transfected with wild-type Cx43-GFP or a C-terminal-truncated Cx43 (Cx43ΔT-GFP). Expression of wild-type Cx43-GFP, but not Cx43ΔT-GFP, was sufficient to restore sustained, BCR-mediated Rap1 activation and cell spreading. Cx43, and specifically the C-terminal domain, was also important for LFA-1- and CXCL12-mediated Rap1 activation, spreading and adhesion to an endothelial cell monolayer. These data show that Cx43 has an important and previously unreported role in B-cell processes that are essential to normal B-cell development and immune responses.

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