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J Cell Sci. 1997 Feb;110 ( Pt 3):311-22.

Dynamics of connexins, E-cadherin and alpha-catenin on cell membranes during gap junction formation.

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Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, Japan.


We examined the dynamics of connexins, E-cadherin and alpha-catenin during gap-junction disassembly and assembly in regeneration hepatocytes by immunofluorescence microscopy, and immunogold-electron microscopy using SDS-digested freeze-replicas. The present findings suggest that during the disappearance of gap junctions most of the gap junction plaques are broken up into smaller aggregates, and then the gap junction proteins may be removed from the cell membrane, but some of the connexons or connexins remain dispersed in the plane of membrane as pure morphologically indistinguishable intramembrane proteins. Double-immunogold electron microscopy using a polyclonal antibody for connexins and a monoclonal antibody for E-cadherin or alpha-catenin revealed co-localization of these molecules at cell-to-cell contact sites during the reappearance of gap junction plaques. This implies that, at least in regenerating hepatocytes, the cadherin-catenin complex-mediated cell-to-cell contact sites act as foci for gap junction formation. In addition, connexin-immunoreactivity was also observed along tight junctional strands, suggesting that the gap junction may also form along the tight junctions.

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