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Bioessays. 1996 Sep;18(9):709-18.

The cellular Internet: on-line with connexins.

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Unité de Neurovirologie et Régénération du Système Nerveux, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Most cells communicate with their immediate neighbors through the exchange of cytosolic molecules such as ions, second messengers and small metabolites. This activity is made possible by clusters of intercellular channels called gap junctions, which connect adjacent cells. In terms of molecular architecture, intercellular channels consist of two channels, called connexons, which interact to span the plasma membranes of two adjacent cells and directly join the cytoplasm of one cell to another. Connexons are made of structural proteins named connexins, which compose a multigene family. Connexin channels participate in the regulation of signaling between developing and differentiated cell types, and recently there have been some unexpected findings. First, unique ionic- and size-selectivities are determined by each connexin; second, the establishment of intercellular communication is defined by the expression of compatible connexins; third, the discovery of connexin mutations associated with human diseases and the study of knockout mice have illustrated the vital role of cell-cell communication in a diverse array of tissue functions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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