Background: Connexins form gap junctions that mediate the transfer of ions, metabolites, and second messengers between contacting cells. Many aspects of connexin function, for example cellular transport, plaque assembly and stability, and channel conductivity, are finely tuned and likely involve proteins that bind to connexins' cytoplasmic domains. However, little is known about such regulatory proteins. To identify novel proteins that interact with the COOH-terminal domain of Connexin-43 (Cx43), the most widely expressed connexin family member, we applied a proteomics approach to screen fractions of mouse tissue homogenates for binding partners. Results: Drebrin was recovered as a binding partner of the Cx43 COOH-terminal domain from mouse brain homogenate. Drebrin had previously been described as an actin binding protein that diminishes in brains during Alzheimer's disease. The novel Drebrin-Cx43 interaction identified by proteomics was confirmed by colocalization of endogenous proteins in astrocytes and Vero cells, coimmunoprecipitation, electron microscopy, electrophysiology, coexpression of both proteins with fluorescent tags, and live-cell FRET analysis. Depletion of Drebrin in cells with siRNA results in impaired cell-cell coupling, internalization of gap junctions, and targeting of Cx43 to a degradative pathway. Conclusions: We conclude that Drebrin is required for maintaining Cx43-containing gap junctions in their functional state at the plasma membrane. It is thus possible that Drebrin may interact with gap junctions in zones of cell-cell contacts in a regulated fashion in response to extracellular signals. The rearrangement or disruption of interactions between connexins and the Drebrin-containing submembrane cytoskeleton directs connexins to degradative cellular pathways.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)