Cx43 gap junction gene expression and gap junctional communication in mouse neural crest cells

Dev Genet. 1997;20(2):119-32. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6408(1997)20:2<119::AID-DVG5>3.0.CO;2-A.


Although gap junctions are not known to be important in mediating cell-cell interactions amongst migratory cells, our studies showed that the connexin 43 (Cx43) gap junction gene is widely expressed in mouse neural crest cell lineages. Using in situ hybridization analysis, Cx43 expression was detected in presumptive neural crest cells emerging from the neural folds of the early postimplantation embryo. Neural crest expression of the Cx43 gap junction gene was also indicated by the analysis of transgenic mice containing a lacZ reporter construct driven by the Cx43 promoter. In neural tube explant cultures of these transgenic mice, lacZ expression was observed in the emerging neural crest outgrowths. Whole mount X-gal staining of these transgenic embryos at various stages of development showed lacZ expression in neural crest cells distributed along the entire craniocaudal axis, with expression found in both cranial and trunk neural crest cells contributing to a wide range of embryonic tissues. This included presumptive cardiac neural crest cells localized in the heart. In light of the widespread expression of Cx43 in neural crest cell lineages, dye injection studies, were carried out to determine if neural crest cells are functionally coupled via gap junctions. Such studies revealed extensive dye coupling among presumptive neural crest cells, thus demonstrating that these migratory cells are indeed gap junctional communication competent. In total, these observations suggest that gap junctions may play a role in mouse neural crest development. This possibility is particularly intriguing given the recent finding that the Cx43 knockout mice die of defects associated with the outflow tract [Reaume et al., 1995], a region of the heart in which neural crest cells are required for normal development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication
  • Connexin 43 / genetics*
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism
  • Ectoderm / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gap Junctions / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Crest / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic


  • Connexin 43