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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Aug;1818(8):1870-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2011.09.029. Epub 2011 Oct 4.

Endocytosis and post-endocytic sorting of connexins.

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Department of Cancer Prevention, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


The connexins constitute a family of integral membrane proteins that form intercellular channels, enabling adjacent cells in solid tissues to directly exchange ions and small molecules. These channels assemble into distinct plasma membrane domains known as gap junctions. Gap junction intercellular communication plays critical roles in numerous cellular processes, including control of cell growth and differentiation, maintenance of tissue homeostasis and embryonic development. Gap junctions are dynamic plasma membrane domains, and there is increasing evidence that modulation of endocytosis and post-endocytic trafficking of connexins are important mechanisms for regulating the level of functional gap junctions at the plasma membrane. The emerging picture is that multiple pathways exist for endocytosis and sorting of connexins to lysosomes, and that these pathways are differentially regulated in response to physiological and pathophysiological stimuli. Recent studies suggest that endocytosis and lysosomal degradation of connexins is controlled by a complex interplay between phosphorylation and ubiquitination. This review summarizes recent progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in endocytosis and post-endocytic sorting of connexins, and the relevance of these processes to the regulation of gap junction intercellular communication under normal and pathophysiological conditions. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The Communicating junctions, composition, structure and characteristics.

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