Differential expression of gap junction connexins in endocrine and exocrine glands

Endocrinology. 1993 Nov;133(5):2371-8. doi: 10.1210/endo.133.5.8404689.


We have investigated the expression of three gap junction proteins and their corresponding mRNAs by secretory cells of a variety of endocrine and exocrine rat glands. By immunostaining cryostat sections (indirect immunofluorescence) with antibodies against connexins (Cx) 26, 32, and 43 and by hybridizing total glandular RNA (Northern blot) with cRNAs for these proteins, we have found that several endocrine glands (pituitary, parathyroid, pancreatic islets, and adrenal) express Cx43, variable levels of Cx26, and no Cx32, whereas several exocrine glands (lacrimal gland, salivary glands, pancreas, prostate, and seminal vesicle) express high levels of Cx32 and variable levels of Cx26, but no Cx43. Thus, different sets of proteins comprise the gap junctions of endocrine and exocrine glands. Together with the findings that an endocrine gland (thyroid) that discharges secretory products extracellularly before releasing them in the vascular compartment expresses both Cx43 and Cx32 and that an exocrine gland (preputial gland) that has a pheromonal role expresses Cx43, these observations suggest that the differential expression of gap junction connexins may be required to specify the endocrine or exocrine differentiation of a secretory cell.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Connexins / genetics*
  • Endocrine Glands / metabolism*
  • Exocrine Glands / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Parathyroid Glands / metabolism
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Prostate / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Salivary Glands / metabolism


  • Connexins
  • RNA, Messenger