Structural determinants and proliferative consequences of connexin 37 hemichannel function in insulinoma cells [Signal Transduction]

September 12th, 2014 by Good, M. E., Ek Vitorin, J. F., Burt, J. M.

Connexin (Cx) 37 suppresses vascular and cancer cell proliferation. The carboxyl terminus (CT) and a channel able to function are necessary, and neither by itself is sufficient, for Cx37 to mediate growth suppression. Cx37 supports transmembrane and intercellular signaling by forming functional hemichannels (HCs) and gap junction channels (GJCs), respectively. Here we determined whether Cx37 with HC, but not GJC, functionality would suppress proliferation of rat insulinoma (Rin) cells comparably to wild-type Cx37 (Cx37-WT). We mutated extracellular loop (ECL) residues hypothesized to compromise HC docking but not HC function (six cysteines mutated to alanine, C6A; N55I; Q58L). All three mutants trafficked to the plasma membrane and formed protein plaques comparably to Cx37-WT. None of the mutants formed functional GJCs and Cx37-C6A did not form functional HCs. Cx37-N55I and -Q58L formed HCs with behavior and permeation properties similar to Cx37-WT (especially Q58L), but none of the mutants suppressed Rin cell proliferation. The data indicate that determinants of Cx37 HC function differ from other Cxs and that HC function with associated HC-supported protein-protein interactions are not sufficient for Cx37 to suppress Rin cell proliferation. Together with previously published data, these results suggest that Cx37 suppresses Rin cell proliferation only when in a specific conformation achieved by interaction of the carboxyl terminus with a Cx37 pore-forming domain able to open as a GJC.