The life cycle of a connexin: gap junction formation, removal, and degradation

J Bioenerg Biomembr. 1996 Aug;28(4):311-8. doi: 10.1007/BF02110107.


Gap junction proteins, connexins, possess many properties that are atypical of other well-characterized integral membrane proteins. Oligomerization of connexins into hemichannels (connexons) has been shown to occur after the protein exits the endoplasmic reticulum. Once delivered to the cell surface, connexons from one cell pair with connexons from a neighboring cell, a process that is facilitated by calcium-dependent cell adhesion molecules. Channels cluster into defined plasma membrane domains to form plaques. Unexpectedly, gap junctions are not stable (half-life < 5 h) and are thought to be retrieved back into the cell in the form of double membrane structures when one cell internalizes the entire gap junction through endocytosis. Evidence exists for both proteasomal and lysosomal degradation of gap junctions, and it remains possible that both mechanisms are involved in connexin degradation. In addition to opening and closing of gap junction channels (gating), the formation and removal of gap junctions play an essential role in regulating the level of intercellular communication.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Connexins / physiology*
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Ion Channels / physiology*


  • Connexins
  • Ion Channels