Connexin type and fluorescent protein fusion tag determine structural stability of gap junction plaques

Randy F. Stout, Erik Lee Snapp, David C. Spray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Gap junctions (GJs) are made up of plaques of laterally clustered intercellular channels and the membranes in which the channels are embedded. Arrangement of channels within a plaque determines subcellular distribution of connexin binding partners and sites of intercellular signaling. Here, we report the discovery that some connexin types form plaque structures with strikingly different degrees of fluidity in the arrangement of the GJ channel subcomponents of the GJ plaque. We uncovered this property of GJs by applying fluorescence recovery after photobleaching to GJs formed from connexins fused with fluorescent protein tags. We found that connexin 26 (Cx26) and Cx30 GJs readily diffuse within the plaque structures, whereas Cx43 GJs remain persistently immobile for more than 2 min after bleaching. The cytoplasmic C terminus of Cx43 was required for stability of Cx43 plaque arrangement. We provide evidence that these qualitative differences in GJ arrangement stability reflect endogenous characteristics, with the caveat that the sizes of the GJs examined were necessarily large for these measurements. We also uncovered an unrecognized effect of non-monomerized fluorescent protein on the dynamically arranged GJs and the organization of plaques composed of multiple connexin types. Together, these findings redefine our understanding of the GJ plaque structure and should be considered in future studies using fluorescent protein tags to probe dynamics of highly ordered protein complexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23497-23514
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 25 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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