Connexin-47 and connexin-32 in gap junctions of oligodendrocyte somata, myelin sheaths, paranodal loops and Schmidt-Lanterman incisures: implications for ionic homeostasis and potassium siphoning

Neuroscience. 2005;136(1):65-86. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.08.027. Epub 2005 Oct 3.


The subcellular distributions and co-associations of the gap junction-forming proteins connexin 47 and connexin 32 were investigated in oligodendrocytes of adult mouse and rat CNS. By confocal immunofluorescence light microscopy, abundant connexin 47 was co-localized with astrocytic connexin 43 on oligodendrocyte somata, and along myelinated fibers, whereas connexin 32 without connexin 47 was co-localized with contactin-associated protein (caspr) in paranodes. By thin-section transmission electron microscopy, connexin 47 immunolabeling was on the oligodendrocyte side of gap junctions between oligodendrocyte somata and astrocytes. By freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling, large gap junctions between oligodendrocyte somata and astrocyte processes contained much more connexin 47 than connexin 32. Along surfaces of internodal myelin, connexin 47 was several times as abundant as connexin 32, and in the smallest gap junctions, often occurred without connexin 32. In contrast, connexin 32 was localized without connexin 47 in newly-described autologous gap junctions in Schmidt-Lanterman incisures and between paranodal loops bordering nodes of Ranvier. Thus, connexin 47 in adult rodent CNS is the most abundant connexin in most heterologous oligodendrocyte-to-astrocyte gap junctions, whereas connexin 32 is the predominant if not sole connexin in autologous ("reflexive") oligodendrocyte gap junctions. These results clarify the locations and connexin compositions of heterologous and autologous oligodendrocyte gap junctions, identify autologous gap junctions at paranodes as potential sites for modulating paranodal electrical properties, and reveal connexin 47-containing and connexin 32-containing gap junctions as conduits for long-distance intracellular and intercellular movement of ions and associated osmotic water. The autologous gap junctions may regulate paranodal electrical properties during saltatory conduction. Acting in series and in parallel, autologous and heterologous oligodendrocyte gap junctions provide essential pathways for intra- and intercellular ionic homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System / ultrastructure
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Homeostasis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ions
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism*
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Oligodendroglia / ultrastructure
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Ranvier's Nodes / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Cntnap1 protein, mouse
  • Cntnap1 protein, rat
  • Connexin 43
  • Connexins
  • Ions
  • connexin 32
  • connexin 47
  • Potassium