Ischemia-induced brain damage depends on specific gap-junctional coupling

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2002 Apr;22(4):453-62. doi: 10.1097/00004647-200204000-00009.


Ischemic brain injury results in neuronal loss and associated neurologic deficits. Although there is some evidence that intercellular communication via gap junctions can spread oxidative cell injury, the possible role of gap-junctional communication in ischemia-induced cell death is the object of debate. Because gap junctions directly connect the cytoplasms of coupled cells, they offer a way to propagate stress signals from cell to cell. The authors investigated the contribution of gap-junctional communication to cell death using an in vitro ischemia model, which was reproduced by submersion of organotypic hippocampal slices into glucose-free deoxygenated medium. The gap-junctional blocker carbenoxolone significantly decreased the spread of cell death, as measured by propidium iodide staining, over a 48-hour period after the ischemic episode. Carbenoxolone ameliorated the hypoxia-induced impairment of the intrinsic neuronal electrophysiologic characteristics, as measured by whole-cell patch clamp recordings. To determine whether specific connexins were involved in the spread of postischemic cell death, the authors partially reduced the synthesis of specific connexins using antisense oligodeoxynucleotides. Simultaneous knockdown of two connexins localized mostly in neurons, connexins 32 and 26, resulted in significant neuroprotection 48 hours after the hypoxic-hypoglycemic episode. Similarly, partial reduction of the predominant glial connexin 43 significantly decreased cell death. These results indicate that gap-junctional communication contributes to the propagation of hypoxic injury and that specific gap junctions could be a novel target to reduce brain damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Carbenoxolone / pharmacology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Electrophysiology
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Antisense / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Connexins
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Antisense
  • Carbenoxolone