Calcium waves between astrocytes from Cx43 knockout mice

Eliana Scemes, Rolf Dermietzel, David C. Spray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Gap junctions are regarded as the primary pathway underlying propagation of Ca2+ waves between astrocytes, although signaling through extracellular space may also contribute. Results obtained from astrocytes cultured from sibling Cx43 knockout (KO) and wild-type (WT) mice in six litters showed that Ca2+ waves propagated more slowly in Cx43 KO than in WT astrocytes; however, because this difference in velocity was only seen in conditions where cell confluence was higher in WT than KO astrocytes, it is attributable to differences in plating density. By contrast, density-independent differences were observed in the amplitudes of the Ca2+ responses (15% smaller in KO astrocytes) and efficacy of spread (to 14% fewer cells in KO astrocytes). Blockade of purinergic receptors with suramin reduced the velocities of the waves by 40% in WT and KO astrocytes and reduced the amplitudes by 20% and 6%, respectively. In the presence of heptanol, Ca2+ waves spread to only 30% of the cells, with a 70% reduced velocity and 30% reduced amplitude. It is concluded that the propagation of Ca2+ waves between astrocytes from Cx43 KO mice is not so greatly affected as expected by deletion of the major gap junction protein between these cells. The residual 5% coupling contributed by the additional connexins (Cx40, Cx45, and Cx46) expressed in KO astrocytes still suffices to provide a more substantial portion of Ca2+ wave propagation than does signaling through extracellular purinergic pathways. These studies demonstrate that, even with severely reduced junctional conductance, Cx43 KO astrocytes are capable of performing long-range Ca2+ wave signaling, perhaps preserving one mechanism critical to neural function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1998


  • ATP receptors
  • Connexins
  • Gap junctions
  • Heptanol
  • Intercellular communication
  • Suramin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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