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Most mammalian cells can intercommunicate via connexin-assembled, gap-junctional channels. To regulate signal transmission, connexin (Cx) channel permeability must respond dynamically to physiological and pathophysiological stimuli. One key stimulus is intracellular pH (pHi), which is modulated by a tissue's metabolic and perfusion status. Our understanding of the molecular mechanism of H+ gating of Cx43 channels-the major isoform in the heart and brain-is incomplete. To interrogate the effects of acidic and alkaline pHi on Cx43 channels, we combined voltage-clamp electrophysiology with pHi imaging and photolytic H+ uncaging, performed over a range of pHi values. We demonstrate that Cx43 channels expressed in HeLa or N2a cell pairs are gated biphasically by pHi via a process that consists of activation by H+ ions at alkaline pHi and inhibition at more acidic pHi. For Cx43 channel-mediated solute/ion transmission, the ensemble of these effects produces a pHi optimum, near resting pHi. By using Cx43 mutants, we demonstrate that alkaline gating involves cysteine residues of the C terminus and is independent of motifs previously implicated in acidic gating. Thus, we present a molecular mechanism by which cytoplasmic acid-base chemistry fine tunes intercellular communication and establishes conditions for the optimal transmission of solutes and signals in tissues, such as the heart and brain.-Garciarena, C. D., Malik, A., Swietach, P., Moreno, A. P., Vaughan-Jones, R. D. Distinct moieties underlie biphasic H+ gating of connexin43 channels, producing a pH optimum for intercellular communication.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1969 - 1981


acid–base, brain, electrical synapse, gap junctions, heart, Animals, Cell Communication, Connexin 43, HeLa Cells, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Ion Channel Gating, Mice, Protons