A new study on how a group of proteins called pannexins form communication channels between two cells demonstrates what scientists have long been struggling to confirm1. The study shows that pannexins do form ‘gap junctions’ in specific cell lines where these proteins are less glycosylated (or less attached to sugar molecules).
Pannexins were discovered in 2003 and are believed to be structurally similar to their better known cousins connexin. In vertebrates, cells communicate through inter-cellular channels called ‘gap junctions’ made out of proteins called connexins. These junctions help exchange metabolites, signaling molecules and ions. In the heart, gap junctions carry electrical impulses helping rhythmic contraction and relaxation. Interruption of junctional communication in the heart may lead to arrhythmia and heart attack. In the nervous system, gap junctions form electrical synapses and help propagate nerve impulses.
- (2014) Pannexins form gap junctions with electrophysiological and pharmacological properties distinct from connexins Sci rep 4:4955