Levels of transient gap junctions between the retinal pigment epithelium and the neuroblastic retina are influenced by catecholamines and correlate with patterns of cell production

J Comp Neurol. 2007 Jul 1;503(1):128-34. doi: 10.1002/cne.21388.


Retinal mitosis takes place at the interface between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the neural retina. Multiple studies have highlighted the essential role that gap junction-mediated communication plays in the regulation of retinal organogenesis. Here, the localization pattern and function of the gap junction protein connexin 43 were examined in vivo in the rat at the interface between the retina and RPE during the main phases of retinal cell production. Connexin 43 was expressed at this site from E15 onward, and levels were subsequently temporally regulated. When Cx43 protein levels were reduced experimentally, by using antisense oligodeoxynucleotides, mitotic activity in the retina decreased significantly. Conversely, in the hypopigmented eye elevated mitotic levels were associated with a significant increase of connexin 43. Both excess protein levels and elevated mitosis were corrected by the in vivo administration of L-DOPA (a dopamine precursor and intermediary compound in the melanin synthesis pathway). These findings suggest that connexin 43-mediated communication between the retina and RPE is essential for the correct pacing of retinal organogenesis. Furthermore, this pathway may be gated by levels of ocular catecholamines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Organogenesis / physiology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / cytology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / embryology*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Catecholamines
  • Connexin 43