Changes in the properties of gap junctions during neuronal differentiation of hippocampal progenitor cells

Renato Rozental, Mildred Morales, Mark F. Mehler, Marcia Urban, Marion Kremer, Rolf Dermietzel, John A. Kessler, David C. Spray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The cellular mechanisms that regulate progenitor cell lineage elaboration and maturation during embryonic development of the mammalian brain are poorly understood. Conditionally immortalized mouse hippocampal multipotent progenitor cells (MK31 cells) were found to be strongly coupled by gap junctions comprising connexin 43 (Cx43) during early neuronal ontogeny; the presence of this Cx type was confirmed by electrophysiological, molecular biological, and immunocytochemical assays. However, as progenitor cells underwent intermediate stages of neuronal differentiation under the influence of interleukin 7 (IL-7) alone or terminal differentiation after composite exposure to basic fibroblast growth factor, IL-7, and transforming growth factor α, coupling strength and the level of Cx43 expression declined. An additional population of junctional channels with distinct properties was detected at an intermediate stage of neuronal differentiation. Reverse transcription-PCR assays detected mRNA encoding Cx40 in IL-7-treated cells and Cx33 after both treatment conditions. Because functional channels in exogenous expression systems are not formed by pairing Cx40 with Cx43 or by pairing Cx33 with itself or additional connexins, these experimental observations raise the possibility that the progressive loss of coupling during differentiation of neural progenitor cells may involve downregulation of Cx43 coupled with potentiation of expression of Cx33 and Cx40. Furthermore, continued expression of Cx43 in differentiating neuroblasts could mediate intercellular communication between neuronal precursor cells and astrocytes by direct signaling via homotypic gap junction channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1762
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 1998


  • Connexins
  • Cx33
  • Cx40
  • Cx43
  • Cytokines
  • Development
  • Electrotonic coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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