The European journal of neuroscience

Immunofluorescence reveals unusual patterns of labelling for connexin43 localized to calbindin-D28K-positive interstitial cells in the pineal gland.

PMID 28394432


Gap junctions between cells in the pineal gland have been described ultrastructurally, but their connexin constituents have not been fully characterized. We used immunofluorescence in combination with markers of pineal cells to document the cellular localization of connexin43 (Cx43). Immunofluorescence labelling of Cx43 with several different antibodies was widely distributed throughout the pineal, whereas another connexin examined, connexin26, was not found in pineal but only in surrounding leptomeninges. Labelling apparently associated with plasma membranes was visualized either as fine Cx43-puncta (1-2 μm) or as unusually large pools of Cx43 ranging up to 4-7 μm in diameter or length. These puncta and pools were highly concentrated in perivascular spaces, where they were associated with numerous cells devoid of labelling for markers of pinealocytes (e.g. tryptophan hydroxylase and serotonin), and where they were minimally associated with blood vessels and lacked association with resident macrophages. Astrocytes labelled for glial fibrillary acidic protein were largely restricted to the anterior pole of the pineal gland, where they displayed only fine and sparse Cx43-puncta along their processes. Labelling for Cx43 was localized largely though not exclusively to the somata and long processes of a subpopulation of perivascular interstitial cells that were immunopositive for calbindin-D28K. These cells were often located among dense bundles or termination areas of sympathetic fibres labelled for tyrosine hydroxylase or serotonin. The results indicate that interstitial cells form abundant gap junctions composed of Cx43, and suggest that gap junction-mediated intracellular communication by these cells supports the activities of pinealocytes.