Author(s): GmezHernndez JM, de Miguel M, Larrosa B, Gonzlez D, Barrio LC
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Abstract In addition to forming gap-junction channels, a subset of connexins (Cxs) also form functional hemichannels. Most hemichannels are activated by depolarization, and opening depends critically on the external Ca2+ concentration. Here we describe the mechanisms of action and the structural determinants underlying the Ca2+ regulation of Cx32 hemichannels. At millimolar calcium concentrations, hemichannel voltage gating to the full open state of approximately 90 pS is inhibited, and ion conduction at negative voltages of the partially open hemichannels ( approximately 18 pS) is blocked. Thus, divalent cation blockage should be considered as a physiological mechanism to protect the cell from the potentially adverse effects of leaky hemichannels. A ring of 12 Asp residues within the external vestibule of the pore is responsible for the binding of Ca2+ that accounts for both pore occlusion and blockage of gating. The residue Asp-169 of one subunit and the Asp-178 of an adjacent subunit must be arranged precisely to allow interactions with Ca2+ to occur. Interestingly, a naturally occurring mutation (D178Y) that causes an inherited peripheral neuropathy induces a complete Ca2+ deregulation of Cx32 hemichannel activity, suggesting that this dysfunction may be involved in the pathogenesis of the neuropathy.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology