Permeability of homotypic and heterotypic gap junction channels formed of cardiac connexins mCx30.2, Cx40, Cx43, and Cx45

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007 Sep;293(3):H1729-36. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00234.2007. Epub 2007 Jun 8.


We examined the permeabilities of homotypic and heterotypic gap junction (GJ) channels formed of rodent connexins (Cx) 30.2, 40, 43, and 45, which are expressed in the heart and other tissues, using fluorescent dyes differing in net charge and molecular mass. Combining fluorescent imaging and electrophysiological recordings in the same cell pairs, we evaluated the single-channel permeability (P(gamma)). All homotypic channels were permeable to the anionic monovalent dye Alexa Fluor-350 (AF(350)), but mCx30.2 channels exhibited a significantly lower P(gamma) than the others. The anionic divalent dye Lucifer yellow (LY) remained permeant in Cx40, Cx43, and Cx45 channels, but transfer through mCx30.2 channels was not detected. Heterotypic channels generally exhibited P(gamma) values that were intermediate to the corresponding homotypic channels. P(gamma) values of mCx30.2/Cx40, mCx30.2/Cx43, or mCx30.2/Cx45 heterotypic channels for AF(350) were similar and approximately twofold higher than P(gamma) values of mCx30.2 homotypic channels. Permeabilities for cationic dyes were assessed only qualitatively because of their binding to nucleic acids. All homotypic and heterotypic channel configurations were permeable to ethidium bromide and 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole. Permeability for propidium iodide was limited only for GJ channels that contain at least one mCx30.2 hemichannel. In summary, we have demonstrated that Cx40, Cx43, and Cx45 are permeant to all examined cationic and anionic dyes, whereas mCx30.2 demonstrates permeation restrictions for molecules with molecular mass over approximately 400 Da. The ratio of single-channel conductance to permeability for AF(350) was approximately 40- to 170-fold higher for mCx30.2 than for Cx40, Cx43, and Cx45, suggesting that mCx30.2 GJs are notably more adapted to perform electrical rather than metabolic cell-cell communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology
  • Connexins / physiology*
  • Ethidium / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Isoquinolines / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Rodentia


  • Connexins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Indoles
  • Isoquinolines
  • DAPI
  • lucifer yellow
  • Ethidium