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J Neurosci. 2013 Mar 13;33(11):4741-53. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2825-12.2013.

Intracellular magnesium-dependent modulation of gap junction channels formed by neuronal connexin36.

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Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


Gap junction (GJ) channels composed of Connexin36 (Cx36) are widely expressed in the mammalian CNS and form electrical synapses between neurons. Here we describe a novel modulatory mechanism of Cx36 GJ channels dependent on intracellular free magnesium ([Mg(2+)]i). We examined junctional conductance (gj) and its dependence on transjunctional voltage (Vj) at different [Mg(2+)]i in cultures of HeLa or N2A cells expressing Cx36. We found that Cx36 GJs are partially inhibited at resting [Mg(2+)]i. Thus, gj can be augmented or reduced by lowering or increasing [Mg(2+)]i, respectively. Similar changes in gj and Vj-gating were observed using MgATP or K2ATP in pipette solutions, which increases or decreases [Mg(2+)]i, respectively. Changes in phosphorylation of Cx36 or in intracellular free calcium concentration were not involved in the observed Mg(2+)-dependent modulation of gj. Magnesium ions permeate the channel and transjunctional asymmetry in [Mg(2+)]i resulted in asymmetric Vj-gating. The gj of GJs formed of Cx26, Cx32, Cx43, Cx45, and Cx47 was also reduced by increasing [Mg(2+)]i, but was not increased by lowering [Mg(2+)]i; single-channel conductance did not change. We showed that [Mg(2+)]i affects both open probability and the number of functional channels, likely through binding in the channel lumen. Finally, we showed that Cx36-containing electrical synapses between neurons of the trigeminal mesencephalic nucleus in rat brain slices are similarly affected by changes in [Mg(2+)]i. Thus, this novel modulatory mechanism could underlie changes in neuronal synchronization under conditions in which ATP levels, and consequently [Mg(2+)]i, are modified.

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