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Biophys J. 1997 May;72(5):2137-42.

Two distinct gating mechanisms in gap junction channels: CO2-sensitive and voltage-sensitive.

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Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14642-8642, USA.


The chemical gating of single-gap junction channels was studied by the dual whole-cell voltage-clamp method in HeLa cells transfected with connexin43 (HeLa43) and in fibroblasts from sciatic nerves. Junctional current (Ij), single-channel conductance, and Ij kinetics were studied in cell pairs during CO2 uncoupling and recoupling at small transjunctional voltages (Vj < 35 mV: Vj gating absent) and at high Vj (Vj > 40 mV: Vj gating strongly activated). In the absence of Vj gating, CO2 exclusively caused Ij slow transitions from open to closed channel states (mean transition time: approximately 10 ms), corresponding to a single-channel conductance of approximately 120 pS. At Vj > 40 mV, Vj gating induced fast Ij flickering between open, gamma j(main state), and residual, gamma j(residual), states (transition time: approximately 2 ms). The ratio gamma j(main state)/gamma j(residual) was approximately 4-5. No obvious correlation between Ij fast flickering and CO2 treatment was noticed. At high Vj, in addition to slow Ij transitions between open and closed states, CO2 induced slow transitions between residual and closed states. During recoupling, each channel reopened by a slow transition (mean transition time: approximately 10 ms) from closed to open state (rarely from closed to residual state). Fast Ij flickering between open and residual states followed. The data are in agreement with the hypothesis that gap junction channels possess two gating mechanisms, and indicate that CO2 induces channel gating exclusively by the slow gating mechanism.

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