Journal of cell science

Aquaporin 0 enhances gap junction coupling via its cell adhesion function and interaction with connexin 50.

PMID 21172802


Both connexin 50 (Cx50) and aquaporin 0 (AQP0) have important roles in lens development and homeostasis, and their mutations are associated with human congenital cataracts. We have previously shown that Cx50 directly interacts with AQP0. Here, we demonstrate the importance of the Cx50 intracellular loop (IL) domain in mediating the interaction with AQP0 in the lens in vivo. AQP0 significantly increased (~20-30%) the intercellular coupling and conductance of Cx50 gap junctions. However, this increase was not observed when the IL domain was replaced with those from other lens connexins. The Cx50-AQP0 interaction had no effect on Cx50 hemichannel function. A fusion protein containing three extracellular loop domains of AQP0 efficiently blocked the cell-to-cell adhesion of AQP0 and attenuated the stimulatory effect of AQP0 on Cx50 gap junction conductance. These data suggest that the specific interaction between Cx50 and AQP0 enhances the coupling of Cx50 gap junctions, but not hemichannels, through the cell adhesion function of AQP0. This result establishes a physiological role of AQP0 in the functional regulation of gap junction channels.