Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 217, Issue 1, pp 13-19

First online:

Connexins Induce and Maintain Tight Junctions in Epithelial Cells

  • Takashi KojimaAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Masaki MurataAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine
  • , Mitsuru GoAffiliated withDepartment of Otolaryngology, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine
  • , David C. SprayAffiliated withDepartment of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • , Norimasa SawadaAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine

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Connexins (Cx) are considered to play a crucial role in the differentiation of epithelial cells and to be associated with adherens and tight junctions. This review describes how connexins contribute to the induction and maintenance of tight junctions in epithelial cells, hepatic cells and airway epithelial cells. Endogenous Cx32 expression and mediated intercellular communication are associated with the expression of tight junction proteins of primary cultured rat hepatocytes. We introduced the human Cx32 gene into immortalized mouse hepatic cells derived from Cx32-deficient mice. Exogenous Cx32 expression and the mediated intercellular communication by transfection could induce the expression and function of tight junctions. Transfection also induced expression of MAGI-1, which localized at adherens and tight junction areas in a gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC)–independent manner. Furthermore, expression of Cx32 was related to the formation of single epithelial cell polarity of the hepatic cells. On the other hand, Cx26 expression, but not mediated intercellular communication, contributed to the expression and function of tight junctions in human airway epithelial cells. We introduced the human Cx26 gene into the human airway epithelial cell line Calu-3 and used a model of tight junction disruption by the Na+/K+-ATPase inhibitor ouabain. Transfection with Cx26 prevented disruption of both tight junction functions, the fence and barrier, and the changes of tight junction proteins by treatment with ouabain in a GJIC–independent manner. These results suggest that connexins can induce and maintain tight junctions in both GJIC-dependent and –independent manners in epithelial cells.


Connexin Gap junction Tight junction Hepatocyte Airway epithelial cell Fence function Barrier function Protein-protein interaction