Gap junctions in the adult cerebral cortex: regional differences in their distribution and cellular expression of connexins

J Comp Neurol. 1996 Dec 9;376(2):326-42. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19961209)376:2<326::AID-CNE13>3.0.CO;2-J.


Gap junctions are membrane channels that mediate electrical and metabolic coupling between adjacent cells. Immunocytochemical analysis by using a panel of anti-connexin antibodies, as well as electron microscopy of thin sections and freeze-fracture replicas, has shown that gap junctions and their constituent proteins are abundant in the cerebral cortex of the adult rat. Their frequency and distribution vary in different cortical regions, which may reflect differences in the cellular and functional organization of these areas of the cortex. Gap junctions were identified between glial cells and, less frequently, between neuronal elements. Heterologous junctions were also identified between astrocytes and oligodendrocytes and between neurons and glia; the latter category included abundant junctions between astrocytic processes and neurons. Double-antibody labelling experiments in tissue sections and in acutely dissociated cells showed that connexin 32 was expressed in neurons and oligodendrocytes, whereas connexin 43, widely believed to be expressed only in astrocytes, was also localized in a population of cortical neurons. These results show that gap junctions can provide a major nonsynaptic means of communication between cortical cell types.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Communication
  • Cerebral Cortex / chemistry
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure*
  • Connexins / analysis*
  • Gap Junctions / chemistry
  • Gap Junctions / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Oligodendroglia / ultrastructure
  • Organ Specificity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Connexins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins