Gating and regulation of connexin 43 (Cx43) hemichannels

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 30;100(20):11388-93. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1434298100. Epub 2003 Sep 16.


Connexin 43 (Cx43) nonjunctional or "unapposed" hemichannels can open under physiological or pathological conditions. We characterize hemichannels comprised of Cx43 or Cx43-EGFP (Cx43 with enhanced GFP fused to the C terminus) expressed in HeLa cells. Channel opening was induced at potentials greater than +60 mV. Open probability appeared to be very low. No comparable opening was detected in the parental, nontransfected HeLa cells. Conductance of fully open single hemichannels was approximately 220 pS, which is approximately double that of Cx43 cell-cell channels. Cx43 hemichannels exhibited two types of gating: fast transitions (<1 ms) between the fully open state and a substate of approximately 75 pS and slow transitions (>5 ms) between either open state and the fully closed state. Cx43-EGFP hemichannels exhibited only slow transitions (>5 ms) between closed and fully open states. These properties resemble those of the corresponding Cx43 and Cx43-EGFP cell-cell channels. Cx43 with EGFP on the N terminus (EGFP-Cx43) inserted into the surface and formed plaques but did not form hemichannels or cell-cell channels. Hemichannel blockers, 18beta-glycyrrhetinic acid or La3+, blocked depolarization-induced currents. Uptake of ethidium bromide (i) was faster in Cx43 and Cx43-EGFP than parental and EGFP-Cx43 cells, (ii) was directly correlated with Cx43-EGFP expression, (iii) was reduced by hemichannel blockers, and (iv) occurred at the same low rate in EGFP-Cx43 and parental cells. Although hemichannel opening was not detected electrophysiologically at the resting potential, infrequent or brief opening could account for ethidium bromide uptake. Opening of Cx43 hemichannels may mediate normal signaling or be deleterious.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Connexin 43 / chemistry
  • Connexin 43 / physiology*
  • Fluorescence
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry


  • Connexin 43
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins