Expression of connexin genes in the human retina

Söhl, Goran; Joussen, Antonia; Kociok, Norbert; Willecke, Klaus
January 2010
BMC Ophthalmology;2010, Vol. 10, p27
Academic Journal
Background: Gap junction channels allow direct metabolically and electrical coupling between adjacent cells in various mammalian tissues. Each channel is composed of 12 protein subunits, termed connexins (Cx). In the mouse retina, Cx43 could be localized mostly between astroglial cells whereas expression of Cx36, Cx45 and Cx57 genes has been detected in different neuronal subtypes. In the human retina, however, the expression pattern of connexin genes is largely unknown. Methods: Northern blot hybridizations, RT-PCR as well as immunofluorescence analyses helped to explore at least partially the expression pattern of the following human connexin genes GJD2 (hCx36), GJC1 (hCx45), GJA9 (hCx59) and GJA10 (hCx62) in the human retina. Results: Here we report that Northern blot hybridization signals of the orthologuous hCx36 and hCx45 were found in human retinal RNA. Immunofluorescence signals for both connexins could be located in both inner and outer plexiform layer (IPL, OPL). Expression of a third connexin gene denoted as GJA10 (Cx62) was also detected after Northern blot hybridization in the human retina. Interestingly, its gene structure is similar to that of Gja10 (mCx57) being expressed in mouse horizontal cells. RT-PCR analysis suggested that an additional exon of about 25 kb further downstream, coding for 12 amino acid residues, is spliced to the nearly complete reading frame on exon2 of GJA10 (Cx62). Cx59 mRNA, however, with high sequence identity to zebrafish Cx55.5 was only weakly detectable by RT-PCR in cDNA of human retina. Conclusion: In contrast to the neuron-expressed connexin genes Gjd2 coding for mCx36, Gjc1 coding for mCx45 and Gja10 coding for mCx57 in the mouse, a subset of 4 connexin genes, including the unique GJA9 (Cx59) and GJA10 (Cx62), could be detected at least as transcript isoforms in the human retina. First immunofluorescence analyses revealed a staining pattern of hCx36 and hCx45 expression both in the IPL and OPL, partially reminiscent to that in the mouse, although additional post-mortem material is needed to further explore their sublaminaspecific distribution. Appropriate antibodies against Cx59 and Cx62 protein will clarify expression of these proteins in future studies.


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