Connexin channel permeability to cytoplasmic molecules

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

339 Scopus citations


Connexin channels are known to be permeable to a variety of cytoplasmic molecules. The first observation of second messenger junctional permeability, made ∼30 years ago, sparked broad interest in gap junction channels as mediators of intercellular molecular signaling. Since then, much has been learned about the diversity of connexin channels with regard to isoform diversity, tissue and developmental distribution, modes of channel regulation, assembly, expression, biochemical modification and permeability, all of which appear to be dynamically regulated. This information has expanded the potential roles of connexin channels in development, physiology and disease, and made their elucidation much more complex-30 years ago such an orchestra of junctional dynamics was unanticipated. Only recently, however, have investigators been able to directly address, in this more complex framework, the key issue: what specific biological molecules, second messengers and others, are able to permeate the various types of connexin channels, and how well? An important related issue, given the ever-growing list of connexin-related pathologies, is how these permeabilities are altered by disease-causing connexin mutations. Together, many studies show that a variety of cytoplasmic molecules can permeate the different types of connexin channels. A few studies reveal differences in permeation by different molecules through a particular type of connexin channel, and differences in permeation by a particular molecule through different types of connexin channels. This article describes and evaluates the various methods used to obtain these data, presents an annotated compilation of the results, and discusses the findings in the context of what can be inferred about mechanism of selectivity and potential relevance to signaling. The data strongly suggest that highly specific interactions take place between connexin pores and specific biological molecular permeants, and that those interactions determine which cytoplasmic molecules can permeate and how well. At this time, the nature of those interactions is unclear. One hopes that with more detailed permeability and structural information, the specific molecular mechanisms of the selectivity can be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-143
Number of pages24
JournalProgress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology


  • Connexin
  • Gap junction
  • Molecular permeability
  • Second messengers


Dive into the research topics of 'Connexin channel permeability to cytoplasmic molecules'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this