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Assay and drug development technologies

A high-throughput assay for connexin 43 (Cx43, GJA1) gap junctions using codon-optimized aequorin.


PMID 23046406

Abstract

Gap junctions (GJs) are intercellular channels which are composed of the connexin family of proteins that allow electrical and chemical communications and synchronization in tissue ensembles. Evidence suggests that pharmaceutical modulators of these channels may have therapeutic potential or carry undesired liability. In this report, we exogenously expressed human connexin 43 (Cx43, GJA1) and demonstrated functionality in a 96-well flow cytometry assay detecting intercellular transfer of the calcein dye. We have designed a 384-well high-throughput method for detecting the transfer of calcium between HeLa cells expressing Cx43. In this assay, donor cells coexpress Cx43 and the α1A adrenergic Gα-coupled receptor, while recipient cells coexpress Cx43 and the cytoplasmic version of the calcium-sensitive luminescent protein aequorin enhanced by codon optimization (cytoAeq). The two cell populations were mixed, dispensed to 384-well plates, and incubated for 3 h to allow the formation of GJs. Activation of α1A by epinephrine in donor cells led to dose-dependent calcium increases in recipient cells, which were detected by measuring the intensity of aequorin luminescence. The response was dependent on the expression of Cx43 and inhibited by the GJ blocker 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid, suggesting Cx43 GJ-mediated activity. In a parallel experiment with capsaicin and the TrpV1 ion channel in place of phenylephrine and α1A, a similar magnitude of difference in the maximal calcium response was detected in both donor and recipient cells, suggesting that calcium is likely the permeant ion through the GJ. This assay may pave the way for high-throughput screening of GJ modulators for drug discovery.

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A4140 Aequorin from jellyfish (Aequorea sp.), Type III, solid