Journal of cell science

A PKA-ezrin-Cx43 signaling complex controls gap junction communication and thereby trophoblast cell fusion.

PMID 25052094


Cell fusion occurs as part of the differentiation of some cell types, including myotubes in muscle and osteoclasts in remodeling bone. In the human placenta, mononuclear cytotrophoblasts in a human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)-driven process fuse to form multinucleated syncytia that allow the exchange of nutrients and gases between the maternal and fetal circulation. Experiments in which protein kinase A (PKA) is displaced from A-kinase anchoring proteins (AKAPs), or in which specific AKAPs are depleted by siRNA-mediated knockdown, point to ezrin as a scaffold required for hCG-, cAMP- and PKA-mediated regulation of the fusion process. By a variety of immunoprecipitation and immunolocalization experiments, we show that ezrin directs PKA to a molecular complex of connexin 43 (Cx43, also known as GJA1) and zona occludens-1 (ZO-1, also known as TJP1). A combination of knockdown experiments and reconstitution with ezrin or Cx43 with or without the ability to bind to its interaction partner or to PKA demonstrate that ezrin-mediated coordination of the localization of PKA and Cx43 is necessary for discrete control of Cx43 phosphorylation and hCG-stimulated gap junction communication that triggers cell fusion in cytotrophoblasts.