Gap junctions assemble in the presence of cytoskeletal inhibitors, but enhanced assembly requires microtubules

Ross G. Johnson, Rita A. Meyer, Xin Ren Li, Doris M. Preus, Lana Tan, Haiying Grunenwald, Alicia F. Paulson, Dale W. Laird, Judson D. Sheridan

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72 Scopus citations


The role of cytoskeletal elements in gap junction (GJ) assembly has been studied using Novikoff hepatoma cells treated with cytochalasin B (CB) to disrupt actin filaments or with colchicine or nocodazole to disrupt microtubules. After 60 min of cell reaggregation, freeze-fracture was used to evaluate quantitatively the "initiation," "maturation," and "growth" phases of GJ assembly. The development of junctional permeability to fluorescent dyes was also analyzed. The only effects of CB on the structure or permeability of the developing junctions involved an elongation of GJ aggregates and a small decrease in formation plaque areas. Colchicine (but not the inactive form, lumicolchicine) prevented the enhancement of GJ growth by cholesterol, but its effect on basal growth was equivocal. Nocodazole inhibited the growth of GJ, even under basal conditions, without an effect on initiation. Nocodazole also blocked the forskolin-enhanced increase in the growth of GJs and, in living MDCK cells, reduced the movement of transport intermediates containing green fluorescent protein-tagged connexin43. Thus, neither actin filaments nor microtubules appear to restrict GJ assembly by anchoring intramembrane GJ proteins, nor are they absolutely required for functional GJs to form. However, microtubules are necessary for enhanced GJ growth and likely for facilitating connexin trafficking under basal conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-80
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Pete Lefebvre and Carolyn Silflow for advice regarding relevant work on the cytoskeleton, to Tom Hays for providing the tubulin antibodies, and to Mike Atkinson and Erica TenBroek for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by Grant GM-46277 from the National Institutes of Health to R.G.J. and Grant MT-12241 from the Medical Research Council of Canada to D.W.L.


  • Actin filament
  • Cell communication
  • Connexin43
  • Dye injection
  • Freeze-fracture
  • Gap junction
  • Microtubule


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