Journal of cell science

Connexin43 and connexin26 form gap junctions, but not heteromeric channels in co-expressing cells.

PMID 15128867


Many cells contain two (or more) gap junction proteins that are able to oligomerize with each other to form heteromeric gap junction channels and influence the properties of intercellular communication. Cx26 and Cx43 are found together in a number of cell types, but previous data have suggested that they might not form heteromeric connexons. We studied the possible interactions of these connexins by co-expression in three different cell lines. Analysis of N2aCx26/Cx43 cell pairs by double whole-cell patch-clamp methods showed that these cells were coupled, but contained only a small number of sizes of single channels consistent with those formed by homomeric Cx26 or Cx43 channels. Immunofluorescence studies showed that both connexins localized to appositional membranes, but in largely distinct domains. Analysis of Triton X-100-solubilized connexons from co-expressing cells by centrifugation through sucrose gradients or by affinity purification using a Ni-NTA column showed no evidence of mixing of Cx26 and Cx43. These results contrast with our observations in cells co-expressing other connexins with Cx43 and suggest that Cx26 and Cx43 do not form heteromeric hemichannels. Moreover, the incorporation of Cx26 and Cx43 into oligomers and into the membrane were similarly affected by treatment of co-expressing cells with brefeldin A or nocodazole, suggesting that the lack of mixing is due to incompatibility of these connexins, not to differences in biosynthetic trafficking.