Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 217, Issue 1–3, pp 43–51 | Cite as

Ubiquitination of Gap Junction Proteins

  • Edward Leithe
  • Edgar Rivedal


Gap junctions are plasma membrane domains containing arrays of channels that exchange ions and small molecules between neighboring cells. Gap junctional intercellular communication enables cells to directly cooperate both electrically and metabolically. Several lines of evidence indicate that gap junctions are important in regulating cell growth and differentiation and for maintaining tissue homeostasis. Gap junction channels consist of a family of transmembrane proteins called connexins. Gap junctions are dynamic structures, and connexins have a high turnover rate in most tissues. Connexin43 (Cx43), the best-studied connexin isoform, has a half-life of 1.5–5 h; and its degradation involves both the lysosomal and proteasomal systems. Increasing evidence suggests that ubiquitin is important in the regulation of Cx43 endocytosis. Ubiquitination of Cx43 is thought to occur at the plasma membrane and has been shown to be regulated by protein kinase C and the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. Cx43 binds to the E3 ubiquitin ligase Nedd4, in a process modulated by Cx43 phosphorylation. The interaction between Nedd4 and Cx43 is mediated by the WW domains of Nedd4 and involves a proline-rich sequence conforming to a PY (XPPXY) consensus motif in the C terminus of Cx43. In addition to the PY motif, an overlapping tyrosine-based sorting signal conforming to the consensus of an YXXϕ motif is involved in Cx43 endocytosis, indicating that endocytosis of gap junctions involves both ubiquitin-dependent and -independent pathways. Here, we discuss current knowledge on the ubiquitination of connexins.


Gap junction Connexin Ubiquitin Endocytosis Degradation 



The work in our laboratory is supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society and the Research Council of Norway.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cancer PreventionInstitute for Cancer Research, Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet Medical CenterOsloNorway

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