Gap junction proteins and their role in spinal cord injury

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 2015, 7 (JAN)
Issue Date:
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© 2015 Tonkin, Mao, O'Carroll, Nicholson, Green, Gorrie and Moalem-Taylor. Gap junctions are specialized intercellular communication channels that are formed by two hexameric connexin hemichannels, one provided by each of the two adjacent cells. Gap junctions and hemichannels play an important role in regulating cellular metabolism, signaling, and functions in both normal and pathological conditions. Following spinal cord injury (SCI), there is damage and disturbance to the neuronal elements of the spinal cord including severing of axon tracts and rapid cell death. The initial mechanical disruption is followed by multiple secondary cascades that cause further tissue loss and dysfunction. Recent studies have implicated connexin proteins as playing a critical role in the secondary phase of SCI by propagating death signals through extensive glial networks. In this review, we bring together past and current studies to outline the distribution, changes and roles of various connexins found in neurons and glial cells, before and in response to SCI. We discuss the contribution of pathologically activated connexin proteins, in particular connexin 43, to functional recovery and neuropathic pain, as well as providing an update on potential connexin specific pharmacological agents to treat SCI.
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