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Exp Cell Res. 1996 Mar 15;223(2):314-26.

Changes in cellular distribution of connexins 32 and 26 during formation of gap junctions in primary cultures of rat hepatocytes.

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Department of Pathology, Cancer Research Institute, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine, Japan.


In the adult rat hepatocyte, gap junction proteins consist of connexin 32 (Cx32) and connexin 26 (Cx26). Previously, we reported that both Cx32 and Cx26 were markedly induced and maintained in primary cultures of adult rat hepatocytes. The reappearing gap junctions were accompanied by increases in both the proteins and the mRNAs, and they were well maintained together with extensive gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) for more than 4 weeks. In the present study, we examined the cellular location of the gap junction proteins and the structures in the hepatocytes cultured in our system, using confocal laser microscopy and immunoelectron microscopy of cells processed for Cx32 and Cx26 immunocytochemistry and freeze-fracture analysis. In immunoelectron microscopy, the size of Cx32-immunoreactive gap junction structures on the plasma membrane increased with time of culture, and some of them were larger than those in liver sections in vivo. Freeze-fracture analysis also showed that the size of gap junction plaques increased and that the larger gap junction plaques were composed of densely packed particles. These results suggest that in this culture system, not only the synthesis of Cx proteins but also the size of the gap junction plaques was increased markedly. In the adluminal lateral membrane of the cells, Cx32-immunoreactive lines were observed and many small gap junction plaques were closely associated with a more developed tight junction network. In the basal region of the cells, small Cx32- and Cx26-immunoreactive dots were observed in the cytoplasm and several annular structures labeled with the antibody to Cx32 were observed in the cytoplasm. These results indicated the formation and degradation of gap junctions in the cultured hepatocytes.

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