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Transfer of Biologically Important Molecules Between Cells Through Gap Junction Channels

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Gap junctions are unique intercellular channels that connect the cytoplasm of adjacent cells. They are the only channels that mediate the direct cytoplasmic exchange of small hydrophilic molecules between cells - a process called gap junctional communication. Formed by a family of integral membrane proteins called connexins, gap junctions are dynamic multifunctional complexes that are essential for healthy vertebrate development and physiology. Defects in connexin proteins, and, therefore, in gap junctional communication, are associated with a large variety of pathologies in humans and experimental animals. Thus, knowledge of the molecules that pass through gap junction channels is extremely important. However, aside from some notable cases, the repertoire of biologically important transjunctional molecules remains relatively unexplored. Indeed, the study of the intercellular transfer of endogenous molecules presents formidable challenges. Here we review developments in identifying biologically relevant molecules that pass between cells through gap junction channels.
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Keywords: cytoplasm; hydrophilic

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine, Basic Science Tower L6, Health Science Complex, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11796-8661, USA.

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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