Calcium-induced permeability transition in rat brain mitochondria is promoted by carbenoxolone through targeting connexin43

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2011 Mar;300(3):C707-20. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00061.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 9.


Carbenoxolone (Cbx), a substance from medicinal licorice, is used for antiinflammatory treatments. We investigated the mechanism of action of Cbx on Ca(2+)-induced permeability transition pore (PTP) opening in synaptic and nonsynaptic rat brain mitochondria (RBM), as well as in rat liver mitochondria (RLM), in an attempt to identify the molecular target of Cbx in mitochondria. Exposure to threshold Ca(2+) load induced PTP opening, as seen by sudden Ca(2+) efflux from the mitochondrial matrix and membrane potential collapse. In synaptic RBM, Cbx (1 μM) facilitated the Ca(2+)-induced, cyclosporine A-sensitive PTP opening, while in nonsynaptic mitochondria the Cbx threshold concentration was higher. A well-known molecular target of Cbx is the connexin (Cx) family, gap junction proteins. Moreover, Cx43 was previously found in heart mitochondria and attributed to the preconditioning mechanism of protection. Thus, we hypothesized that Cx43 might be a target for Cbx in brain mitochondria. For the first time, we detected Cx43 by Western blot in RBM, but Cx43 was absent in RLM. Interestingly, two anti-Cx43 antibodies, directed against amino acids 252 to 270 of rat Cx43, abolished the Cbx-induced enhancement of PTP opening in total RBM and in synaptic mitochondria, but not in RLM. In total RBM and in synaptic mitochondria, PTP caused dephosphorylation of Cx43 at serine 368. The phosphorylation level of serine 368 was decreased at threshold calcium concentration and additionally in the combined presence of Cbx in synaptic mitochondria. In conclusion, active mitochondrial Cx43 appears to counteract the Ca(2+)-induced PTP opening and thus might inhibit the PTP-ensuing mitochondrial demise and cell death. Consequently, we suggest that activity of Cx43 in brain mitochondria represents a novel molecular target for protection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Ulcer Agents / pharmacology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Carbenoxolone / pharmacology*
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Membranes / drug effects
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / physiology
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Permeability / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Anti-Ulcer Agents
  • Connexin 43
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Carbenoxolone