, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 351-358

Gap junctions in excitable cells

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Gap junction channels are an integral part of the conduction or propagation of an action potential from cell to cell. Gap junctions have rather unique gating and permeability properties which permit the movement of molecules from cell to cell. These molecules may not be directly linked to action potentials but can alter nonjunctional processes within cells, which in turn can affect conduction velocity. The data described in this review reveal that, for the majority of excitable cells, there are two limiting factors, with respect to gap junctions, that affect the conduction/propagation of action potentials. These are (1) the total number of channels and (2) the selective permeability of the channels. Interestingly, voltage dependence and the time course of voltage inactivation (kinetics) are not rate limiting steps under normal physiological conditions for any of the connexins studied so far. Only specialized rectifying electrical synapses utilize strong voltage dependence and rapid kinetics to permit or deny the continued propagation of an action potential.