Connexin43 (Cx43) has roles in cell-cell communication as well as channel independent roles in regulating motility and migration. Loss of function approaches to decrease Cx43 protein levels in neural cells result in reduced migration of neurons during cortical development in mice and impaired glioma tumor cell migration. In other cell types, correlations between Cx43 expression and cell morphology, adhesion, motility and migration have been noted. In this review we will discuss the common themes that have been revealed by a detailed comparison of the published results of neuronal cells with that of other cell types. In brief, these comparisons clearly show differences in the stability and directionality of protrusions, polarity of movement, and migration, depending on whether a) residual Cx43 levels remain after siRNA or shRNA knockdown, b) Cx43 protein levels are not detectable as in cells from Cx43(-/-) knockout mice or in cells that normally have no endogenous Cx43 expression, c) gain-of-function approaches are used to express Cx43 in cells that have no endogenous Cx43 and, d) Cx43 is over-expressed in cells that already have low endogenous Cx43 protein levels. What is clear from our comparisons is that Cx43 expression influences the adhesiveness of cells and the directionality of cellular processes. These observations are discussed in light of the ability of cells to rearrange their cytoskeleton and move in an organized manner. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The Communicating junctions, roles and dysfunctions.
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