UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Gap junctions and hemichannels: communicating cell death in neurodevelopment and disease Belousov, Andrei B; Fontes, Joseph D; Freitas-Andrade, Moises; Naus, Christian C


Gap junctions are unique membrane channels that play a significant role in intercellular communication in the developing and mature central nervous system (CNS). These channels are composed of connexin proteins that oligomerize into hexamers to form connexons or hemichannels. Many different connexins are expressed in the CNS, with some specificity with regard to the cell types in which distinct connexins are found, as well as the timepoints when they are expressed in the developing and mature CNS. Both the main neuronal Cx36 and glial Cx43 play critical roles in neurodevelopment. These connexins also mediate distinct aspects of the CNS response to pathological conditions. An imbalance in the expression, translation, trafficking and turnover of connexins, as well as mutations of connexins, can impact their function in the context of cell death in neurodevelopment and disease. With the ever-increasing understanding of connexins in the brain, therapeutic strategies could be developed to target these membrane channels in various neurological disorders.

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