Voltage is an important parameter that regulates the conductance of both intercellular and plasma membrane channels (undocked hemichannels) formed by the 21 members of the mammalian connexin gene family. Connexin channels display two forms of voltage-dependence, rectification of ionic currents and voltage-dependent gating. Ionic rectification results either from asymmetries in the distribution of fixed charges due to heterotypic pairing of different hemichannels, or by channel block, arising from differences in the concentrations of divalent cations on opposite sides of the junctional plaque. This rectification likely underpins the electrical rectification observed in some electrical synapses. Both intercellular and undocked hemichannels also display two distinct forms of voltage-dependent gating, termed Vj(fast)-gating and loop (slow)-gating. This review summarizes our current understanding of the molecular determinants and mechanisms underlying these conformational changes derived from experimental, molecular-genetic, structural, and computational approaches.
- Voltage dependence
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