Emerging complexities in identity and function of glial connexins

Trends Neurosci. 2005 Apr;28(4):188-95. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2005.02.006.


Recent research results indicate that glial gap-junction communication is much more complex and widespread than originally thought, and has diverse roles in brain homeostasis and the response of the brain to injury. The situation is far from clear, however. Pharmacological agents that block gap junctions can abolish neuron-glia long-range signaling and can alleviate neuronal damage whereas, intriguingly, opposite effects are observed in mice lacking connexin43, a major gap-junction subunit protein in astrocytes. How can the apparently contradictory results be explained, and how is specificity achieved within the glial gap-junction system? Another key issue in understanding glial connexin function is that oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, each of which express distinct connexin isotypes, are thought to participate in brain homeostasis by forming a panglial syncytium. Molecular analysis has revealed a surprising diversity of connexin expression and function, and this has led to new hypotheses regarding their roles in the brain, which could be tested using new approaches.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Connexins / isolation & purification
  • Connexins / physiology*
  • Gap Junctions / drug effects
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuroglia / classification
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Connexins