De novo formation of cell pairs was used to examine the gating properties of single gap junction channels. Two separate cells of an insect cell line (clone C6/36, derived from the mosquito Aedes albopictus) were pushed against each other to provoke formation of gap junction channels. A dual voltage-clamp method was used to control the voltage gradient between the cells (Vj) and measure the intercellular current (Ij). The first sign of channel activity was apparent 4.7 min after cell contact. Steady-state coupling reached after 30 min revealed a conductance of 8.7 nS. Channel formation involved no leak between the intra- and extracellular space. The first opening of a newly formed channel was slow (25–28 ms). Each preparation passed through a phase with only one operational gap junction channel. This period was exploited to examine the single channel properties. We found that single channels exhibit several conductance states with different conductances gamma j; a fully open state (gamma j(main state)), several substates (gamma j(substates)), a residual state (gamma j(residual)) and a closed state (gamma j(closed)). The gamma j(main state) was 375 pS, and gamma j(residual) ranged from 30 to 90 pS. The transitions between adjacent substates were 1/7–1/4 of gamma j(main state). Vj had no effect on gamma j(main state), but slightly affected gamma j (residual). The lj transitions involving gamma j(closed) were slow (15–60 ms), whereas those not involving gamma j(closed) were fast (< 2 ms). An increase in Vj led to a decrease in open channel probability. Depolarization of the membrane potential (Vm) increased the incidence of slow transitions leading to gamma j(closed). We conclude that insect gap junctions possess two gates, a fast gate controlled by Vj and giving rise to gamma j(substates) and gamma j(residual), and a slow gate sensitive to Vm and able to close the channel completely.
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