Pathogenesis of X-linked Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease: differential effects of two mutations in connexin 32

J Neurosci. 2003 Nov 19;23(33):10548-58. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.23-33-10548.2003.


X-linked Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is an inherited peripheral neuropathy arising in patients with mutations in the gene encoding connexin 32 (Cx32). Cx32 is expressed at the paranodes and Schmidt-Lantermann incisures of myelinating Schwann cells in which it is believed to form a reflexive pathway between the abaxonal and adaxonal cytoplasmic domains. Patients with the Val181Ala (V181A) mutation have a severe peripheral neuropathy. Experiments using a nude mouse xenograft system show that Schwann cells expressing only this mutant form of Cx32 are profoundly impaired in their ability to support the earliest stages of regeneration of myelinated fibers. Coupling between paired Xenopus oocytes expressing V181A is reduced compared with the coupling between oocytes expressing wild-type human Cx32 (32WT), and protein levels assayed by Western blot are substantially lower. Immunocytochemisty shows that Neuro2a cells expressing the V181A mutant have very few gap junction plaques compared with cells expressing 32WT; Cx32 protein levels are lower in these cells than in those expressing 32WT. Because failure of normal regeneration is evident before formation of myelin, loss of function of Cx32 may impact on the function of precursors of the myelinating Schwann cell before the formation of the hypothesized reflexive pathway. The Glu102Gly (E102G) mutation leads to a milder phenotype. Early regeneration is normal in grafts with Schwann cells expressing the E102G mutant. The only abnormality detected in the behavior of its channel is increased sensitivity to acidification-induced closure, a property that may lead to reduced gap junction coupling during periods of metabolic stress. This restricted functional abnormality may explain the relatively mild phenotype seen in the xenograft model and in E102G patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acids / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease / genetics*
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease / pathology
  • Connexins / genetics*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacokinetics
  • Gap Junctions / drug effects
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / pathology
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / genetics*
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutation*
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Nerve Regeneration / genetics
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Phenotype
  • Sural Nerve / metabolism
  • Sural Nerve / pathology
  • Sural Nerve / transplantation
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / pathology
  • Xenopus


  • Acids
  • Connexins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • connexin 32