Incompatibility of connexin 40 and 43 Hemichannels in gap junctions between mammalian cells is determined by intracellular domains

Mol Biol Cell. 1996 Dec;7(12):1995-2006. doi: 10.1091/mbc.7.12.1995.


Murine connexin 40 (Cx40) and connexin 43 (Cx43) do not form functional heterotypic gap junction channels. This property may contribute to the preferential propagation of action potentials in murine conductive myocardium (expressing Cx40) which is surrounded by working myocardium, expressing Cx43. When mouse Cx40 and Cx43 were individually expressed in cocultured human HeLa cells, no punctate immunofluorescent signals were detected on apposed plasma membranes between different transfectants, using antibodies specific for each connexin, suggesting that Cx40 and Cx43 hemichannels do not dock to each other. We wanted to identify domains in these connexin proteins which are responsible for the incompatibility. Thus, we expressed in HeLa cells several chimeric gene constructs in which different extracellular and intracellular domains of Cx43 had been spliced into the corresponding regions of Cx40. We found that exchange of both extracellular loops (E1 and E2) in this system (Cx40*43E1,2) was required for formation of homotypic and heterotypic conductive channels, although the electrical properties differed from those of Cx40 or Cx43 channels. Thus, the extracellular domains of Cx43 can be directed to form functional homo- and heterotypic channels. Another chimeric construct in which both extracellular domains and the central cytoplasmic loop (E1, E2, and C2) of Cx43 were spliced into Cx40 (Cx40*43E1,2,C2) led to heterotypic coupling only with Cx43 and not with Cx40 transfectants. Thus, the central cytoplasmic loop of Cx43 contributed to selectivity. A third construct, in which only the C-terminal domain (C3) of Cx43 was spliced into Cx40, i.e., Cx40*43C3, showed neither homotypic nor heterotypic coupling with Cx40 and Cx43 transfectants, suggesting that the C-terminal region of Cx43 determined incompatibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biotin / metabolism
  • Connexin 43 / genetics
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Connexins / genetics
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / metabolism
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transfection


  • Connexin 43
  • Connexins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • connexin 40
  • neurobiotin
  • Biotin
  • lucifer yellow

Associated data

  • GENBANK/X57971
  • GENBANK/X61675
  • GENBANK/X62836