Connexin43 null mice reveal that astrocytes express multiple connexins. Academic Article uri icon


  • The gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) is the primary component of intercellular channels in cardiac tissue and in astrocytes, the most abundant type of glial cells in the brain. Mice in which the gene for Cx43 is deleted by homologous recombination die at birth, due to profound hypertrophy of the ventricular outflow tract and stenosis of the pulmonary artery. Despite this significant cardiovascular abnormality, brains of connexin43 null [Cx43 (-/-)] animals are shown to be macroscopically normal and to display a pattern of cortical lamination that is not detectably different from wildtype siblings. Presence of Cx40 and Cx45 in brains and astrocytes cultured from both Cx43 (-/-) mice and wildtype littermates was confirmed by RT-PCR, Northern blot analyses and by immunostaining; Cx46 was detected by RT-PCR and Northern blot analyses. Presence of Cx26 in astrocyte cultures was indicated by RT-PCR and by Western blot analysis, although we were unable to resolve whether it was contributed by contaminating cells; Cx30 mRNA was detected by Northern blot in long term (2 weeks) but not fresh cultures of astrocytes. These studies thus reveal that astrocyte gap junctions may be formed of multiple connexins. Presumably, the metabolic and ionic coupling provided by these diverse gap junction types may functionally compensate for the absence of the major astrocyte gap junction protein in Cx43 (-/-) mice, providing whatever intercellular signaling is necessary for brain development and cortical lamination.

publication date

  • April 2000

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