pH-dependent modulation of connexin-based gap junctional uncouplers

J Physiol. 2011 Jul 15;589(Pt 14):3495-506. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.209072. Epub 2011 May 23.


Gap junction (GJ) channels formed from connexin (Cx) proteins provide a direct pathway for electrical and metabolic cell–cell communication exhibiting high sensitivity to intracellular pH (pH(i)). We examined pH(i)-dependent modulation of junctional conductance (g(j)) of GJs formed of Cx26, mCx30.2, Cx36, Cx40, Cx43, Cx45, Cx46, Cx47 and Cx50 by reagents representing several distinct groups of uncouplers, such as long carbon chain alkanols (LCCAs), arachidonic acid, carbenoxolone, isoflurane, flufenamic acid and mefloquine. We demonstrate that alkalization by NH4Cl to pH ∼8 increased g(j) in cells expressing mCx30.2 and Cx45, yet did not affect g(j) of Cx26, Cx40, Cx46, Cx47 and Cx50 and decreased it in Cx43 and Cx36 GJs. Unexpectedly, cells expressing Cx45, but not other Cxs, exhibited full coupling recovery after alkalization with NH4Cl under the continuous presence of LCCAs, isoflurane and mefloquine. There was no coupling recovery by alkalization in the presence of arachidonic acid, carbenoxolone and flufenamic acid. In cells expressing Cx45, IC50 for octanol was 0.1, 0.25 and 2.68 mm at pH(i) values of 6.9, 7.2 and 8.1, respectively. Histidine modification of Cx45 protein by N-bromosuccinimide reduced the coupling-promoting effect of NH4Cl as well as the uncoupling effect of octanol. This suggests that LCCAs and some other uncouplers may act through the formation of hydrogen bonds with the as-of-yet unidentified histidine/s of the Cx45 GJ channel protein.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bromosuccinimide / pharmacology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Connexins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Connexins / chemistry
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Octanols / pharmacology
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism


  • Connexins
  • GJB2 protein, human
  • Octanols
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Bromosuccinimide