Loop gating of connexin hemichannels involves movement of pore-lining residues in the first extracellular loop domain

Vytas K. Verselis, Maria P. Trelles, Clio Rubinos, Thaddeus A. Bargiello, Miduturu Srinivas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Unapposed connexin hemichannels exhibit robust closure in response to membrane hyperpolarization and extracellular calcium. This form of gating, termed "loop gating," is largely responsible for regulating hemichannel opening, thereby preventing cell damage through excessive flux of ions and metabolites. The molecular components and structural rearrangements underlying loop gating remain unknown. Here, using cysteine mutagenesis in Cx50, we demonstrate that residues at the TM1/E1 border undergo movement during loop gating. Replacement of Phe43 in Cx50 with a cysteine resulted in small or no appreciable membrane currents. Bath application of dithiothreitol or TPEN (N,N,N′,N′-tetrakis(2-pyridylmethyl) ethylenediamine), reagents that exhibit strong transition metal chelating activity, led to robust currents indicating that the F43C substitution impaired hemichannel function, producing "lock-up" in a closed or poorly functional state due to formation of metal bridges. In support, Cd2+ at submicromolar concentrations (50-100 nM) enhanced lock-up of F43C hemichannels. Moreover, lock-up occurred under conditions that favored closure, indicating that the sulfhydryl groups come close enough to each other or to other residues to coordinate metal ions with high affinity. In addition to F43C, metal binding was also found for G46C, and to a lesser extent, D51C substitutions, positions found to be pore-lining in the open state using the substituted-cysteine accessibility method, but not for A40C and A41C substitutions, which were not found to reside in the open pore. These results indicate that metal ions access the cysteine side chains through the open pore and that closure of the loop gate involves movement of the TM1/E1 region that results in local narrowing of the large aqueous connexin pore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4484-4493
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 13 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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