Heteromeric mixing of connexins: compatibility of partners and functional consequences

Cell Commun Adhes. 2001;8(4-6):199-204. doi: 10.3109/15419060109080723.


Cx43 is widely expressed in many different cell types, and many of these cells also express other connexins. If these connexins are capable of mixing, the functional properties of channels containing heteromeric connexons may substantially influence intercellular communication between such cells. We used biochemical strategies (sedimentation through sucrose gradients, co-immunoprecipitation, or co-purification by Ni-NTA chromatography) to examine heteromeric mixing of Cx43 with other connexins (including Cx26, Cx37, Cx40, Cx45, and Cx56) in transfected cells. These analyses showed that all of the tested connexins except Cx26 formed heteromeric connexons with Cx43. We used the double whole-cell patch-camp technique to analyze the electrophysiological properties of gap junction channels in pairs of co-expressing cells. Cx37 and Cx45 made a large variety of functional heteromeric combinations with Cx43 based on detection of many different single channel conductances. Most of the channel event sizes observed in cells co-expressing Cx40 and Cx43 were similar to those of homomeric Cx43 or Cx40 hemichannels in homo- or hetero-typic configurations. Our data suggest several different possible consequences of connexin co-expression: (1) some combinations of connexins may form heteromeric connexons with novel proeprties; (2) some connexins may form heteromeric channels that do not have unique properties, and (3) some connexins may be incompatible for heteromeric mixing.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Line
  • Chickens
  • Connexin 26
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Connexins / genetics
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / chemistry*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats


  • Connexin 43
  • Connexins
  • GJB2 protein, human
  • Connexin 26