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The Journal of biological chemistry

Targeted gap junction protein constructs reveal connexin-specific differences in oligomerization.


PMID 11929864

Abstract

To define further the mechanisms of gap junction protein (connexin (Cx)) oligomerization without pharmacologic disruption, we have examined the transport and assembly of connexin constructs containing C-terminal di-lysine-based endoplasmic reticulum (ER) (HKKSL) or ER-Golgi intermediate compartment (AKKFF) targeting sequences. By immunofluorescence microscopy, Cx43-HKKSL transiently transfected into HeLa cells showed a predominantly ER localization, although Cx43-AKKFF was localized to the perinuclear region of the cell. Sucrose gradient analysis of Triton X-100-solubilized connexins showed that either Cx43-HKKSL or Cx43-AKKFF expressed alone by HeLa cells was maintained as an apparent monomer. In contrast to Cx43-HKKSL, Cx32-HKKSL was maintained in the ER as stable hexamers, consistent with the notion that Cx32 and Cx43 oligomerization occur in distinct intracellular compartments. Furthermore, Cx43-HKKSL and Cx43-AKKFF inhibited trafficking of Cx43 and Cx46 to the plasma membrane. The inhibitory effect was because of the formation of mixed oligomers between Cx43-HKKSL or Cx43-AKKF and wild type Cx43 or Cx46. Taken together, these results suggest that Cx43-HKKSL and Cx43-AKKFF recirculate through compartments where oligomerization occurs and may be maintained as apparent monomers by a putative Cx43-specific quality control mechanism.

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