Although a functional pore domain is required for connexin 37 (Cx37)–mediated suppression of rat insulinoma (Rin) cell proliferation, it is unknown whether functional hemichannels would be sufficient or if Cx37 gap junction channels are required for growth suppression. To test this possibility, we targeted extracellular loop cysteines for mutation, expecting that the mutated protein would retain hemichannel, but not gap junction channel, functionality. Cysteines at positions 61 and 65 in the first extracellular loop of Cx37 were mutated to alanine and the mutant protein (Cx37-C61,65A) expressed in Rin cells. Although the resulting iRin37-C61,65A cells expressed the mutant protein comparably to Cx37 wild-type (Cx37-WT)–expressing Rin cells (iRin37), Cx37-C61,65A expression did not suppress the proliferation of Rin cells. As expected, iRin37-C61,65A cells did not form functional gap junction channels. However, functional hemichannels also could not be detected in iRin37-C61,65A cells by either dye uptake or electrophysiological approaches. Thus, failure of Cx37-C61,65A to suppress the proliferation of Rin cells is consistent with previous data demonstrating the importance of channel functionality to Cx37’s growth-suppressive function. Moreover, failure of the Cx37-C61,65A hemichannel to function, even in low external calcium, emphasizes the importance of extracellular loop cysteines not only in hemichannel docking but also in determining the ability of the hemichannel to adopt a closed configuration that can open in response to triggers, such as low external calcium, effective at opening Cx37-WT hemichannels.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 15, 2012
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