A large proportion of recessive nonsyndromic hearing loss is due to mutations in the GJB2 gene encoding connexin 26 (Cx26), a component of a gap junction. Within different ethnic groups there are specific common recessive mutations, each with a relatively high carrier frequency, suggesting the possibility of heterozygous advantage. Carriers of the R143W GJB2 allele, the most prevalent in the African population, present with a thicker epidermis than noncarriers. In this study, we show that (R143W)Cx26-expressing keratinocytes form a significantly thicker epidermis in an organotypic coculture skin model. In addition, we show increased migration of cells expressing (R143W)Cx26 compared to (WT)Cx26-overexpressing cells. We also demonstrate that cells expressing (R143W)Cx26 are significantly less susceptible to cellular invasion by the enteric pathogen Shigella flexneri than (WT)Cx26-expressing cells. These in vitro studies suggest an advantageous effect of (R143W)Cx26 in epithelial cells.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 21, 2007
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