Intramolecular interactions mediate pH regulation of connexin43 channels

Biophys J. 1996 Mar;70(3):1294-302. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(96)79686-8.


We have previously proposed that acidification-induced regulation of the cardiac gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) may be modeled as a particle-receptor interaction between two separate domains of Cx43: the carboxyl terminal (acting as a particle), and a region including histidine 95 (acting as a receptor). Accordingly, intracellular acidification would lead to particle-receptor binding, thus closing the channel. A premise of the model is that the particle can bind its receptor, even if the particle is not covalently bound to the rest of the protein. The latter hypothesis was tested in antisense-injected Xenopus oocyte pairs coexpressing mRNA for a pH-insensitive Cx43 mutant truncated at amino acid 257 (i.e., M257) and mRNA coding for the carboxyl terminal region (residues 259-382). Intracellular pH (pHo) was recorded using the dextran form of the proton-sensitive dye seminaphthorhodafluor (SNARF). Junctional conductance (Gj) was measured with the dual voltage clamp technique. Wild-type Cx43 channels showed their characteristic pH sensitivity. M257 channels were not pH sensitive (pHo tested: 7.2 to 6.4). However, pH sensitivity was restored when the pH-insensitive channel (M257) was coexpressed with mRNA coding for the carboxyl terminal. Furthermore, coexpression of the carboxyl terminal of Cx43 enhanced the pH sensitivity of an otherwise less pH-sensitive connexin (Cx32). These data are consistent with a model of intramolecular interactions in which the carboxyl terminal acts as an independent domain that, under the appropriate conditions, binds to a separate region of the protein and closes the channel. These interactions may be direct (as in the ball-and-chain mechanism of voltage-dependent gating of potassium channels) or mediated through an intermediary molecule. The data further suggest that the region of Cx43 that acts as a receptor for the particle is conserved among connexins. A similar molecular mechanism may mediate chemical regulation of other channel proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Connexin 43 / chemistry
  • Connexin 43 / genetics
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Female
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Structure
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Connexin 43
  • Connexins
  • Ion Channels
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • connexin 32