Single Cysteines in the Extracellular and Transmembrane Regions Modulate Pannexin 1 Channel Function

  • Stefanie Bunse
  • Matthias Schmidt
  • Sarah Hoffmann
  • Kathrin Engelhardt
  • Georg Zoidl
  • Rolf DermietzelEmail author


Pannexins form high-conductance ion channels in the membranes of many vertebrate cells. Functionally, they have been associated with multiple functional pathways like the propagation of calcium waves, ATP release, responses to ischemic conditions and apoptosis. In contrast to accumulating details which uncovered their functions, the molecular mechanisms for pannexin channel regulation and activation are hardly understood. To further elucidate regulatory mechanisms, we substituted cysteine residues, expected key elements for channel function, in extracellular and transmembrane regions of Pannexin 1 (Panx1). Most apparently, substitution of the transmembrane cysteine C40 resulted in constitutively open channels with profoundly increased activity. Hence, Xenopus laevis oocytes injected with corresponding cRNA showed strongly impaired viability, anomalous dye uptake and greatly increased whole-cell conductivity. All changes induced by C40 substitution were significantly reduced by the Panx1 channel blocker carbenoxolone, indicating that channel activity of the mutated Panx1 had been affected. In contrast, no changes occurred after substitution of the two other transmembrane cysteines, C215 and C227, in terms of channel conductivity. Finally, substitution of any of the four extracellular cysteines resulted in complete loss of channel function in both X. laevis oocytes and transfected N2A cells. From this, we conclude that cysteine residues of Panx1 reveal differential functional profiles for channel activation and drug sensitivity.


Membrane protein Site-directed mutagenesis Hemichannel Pannexin Channel activity 



We thank Gerhard Dahl for the kind gift of Panx1 antibody, Matthias Tenbusch for help with the FACS analysis and Sabine Peuckert, Sabine Schreiber-Minjoli, Christiane Zoidl and Hans-Werner Habbes for excellent technical assistance regarding molecular biology and immunocytochemistry. This project was supported by grants of the GRK 736 (Development and Plasticity of the Nervous System: Molecular, Synaptic and Cellular Mechanisms) to S. B. and the DFG (292/11-4) to R. D. and G. Z.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 1712 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie Bunse
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matthias Schmidt
    • 1
  • Sarah Hoffmann
    • 1
  • Kathrin Engelhardt
    • 1
  • Georg Zoidl
    • 1
  • Rolf Dermietzel
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Neuroanatomy and Molecular Brain ResearchRuhr-University BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.Department of Synaptic PlasticityMax Planck Institute for Brain ResearchFrankfurt am MainGermany

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