Distribution of connexin50 channels and hemichannels in lens fibers: a structural approach

Cell Commun Adhes. 2003 Jul-Dec;10(4-6):265-70. doi: 10.1080/cac.10.4-6.265.270.


A detailed understanding of the mechanisms regulating cell-to-cell communication in the lens necessitates information about the distribution and density of Cx46 and Cx50 in their native cellular environment. These isoforms constitute the extensive pathway between the lens surface and the interior, helping to maintain its striking optical properties. To identify Cx50 channels and hemichannels in the plasma membrane and to differentiate between them, immuno-freeze-fracture-labeling (FRIL) with immuno-gold particles in used. In equatorial lens fibers, the Cx50-gold complexes label gap junctions at high densities and non-junctional plasma membranes at lower densities. Small depressions in the non-junctional plasma membrane labeled by the gold-complexes most likely represent points of hemichannel insertion. Measurement of the width of the extra-cellular space separating adjacent plasma membranes indicates that the gold complexes in the gap junctions represent Cx50 channels and those in the non-junctional plasma membrane, Cx50 hemichannels. Estimates of their densities indicate that the channels are at least one order of magnitude more numerous than the hemichannels. Therefore, in lens fibers, Cx50 hemichannels are inserted via exocytosis and are rapidly assembled into channels assembled in gap junction plaques.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure*
  • Connexins
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism*
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure*
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism
  • Lens, Crystalline / ultrastructure*
  • Rats


  • Connexins
  • Eye Proteins
  • connexin 50