Connexin 46 and Connexin 50 Gap Junction Channel Properties Are Shaped by Structural and Dynamic Features of Their N-Terminal Domains.

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The Journal of Physiology

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Gap junctions formed by different connexins are expressed throughout the body and harbor unique channel properties that have not been fully defined mechanistically. Recent structural studies by Cryo-EM have produced high-resolution models of the related but functionally distinct lens connexins (Cx50 and Cx46) captured in a stable open state, opening the door for structure-function comparison. Here, we conducted comparative MD simulation and electrophysiology studies to dissect the isoform-specific differences in Cx46 and Cx50 intercellular channel function. We show that key determinants Cx46 and Cx50 gap junction channel open stability and unitary conductance are shaped by structural and dynamic features of their N-terminal domains, in particular the residue at the 9 position and differences in hydrophobic anchoring sites. The results of this study establish the open state Cx46/50 structural models as archetypes for structure-function studies targeted at elucidating gap junction channel mechanism and the molecular basis of disease-causing variants.


© 2021 The Physiological Society

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