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The connexins are a family of homologous integral membrane proteins that form channels that provide a low resistance pathway for the transmission of electrical signals and the diffusion of small ions and non-electrolytes between coupled cells. Individuals carrying mutations in the gene encoding connexin 32 (Cx32), a gap junction protein expressed in the paranodal loops and Schmidt-Lantermann incisures of myelinating Schwann cells, develop a peripheral neuropathy—the X-linked form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMTX). Over 160 different mutations in Cx32 associated with CMTX have been identified. Some mutations will lead to complete loss of function with no possibility of expression of functional channels. Some mutations in Cx32 lead to the abnormal accumulation of Cx32 proteins in the cytoplasm, particularly in the Golgi apparatus; CMTX may arise due to incorrect trafficking of Cx32 or to interference with trafficking of other proteins. On the other hand, many mutant forms of Cx32 can form functional channels. Some functional mutants have conductance voltage relationships that are disrupted to a degree which would lead to a substantial reduction in the available gap junction mediated communication pathway. Others have essentially normal steady-state g-V relations. In one of these cases (Ser26Leu), the only change introduced by the mutation is a reduction in the pore diameter from 7 Angstrom for the wild-type channel to less than 3 Angstrom for Ser26Leu. This reduction in pore diameter may restrict the passage of important signaling molecules. These findings suggest that in some, if not all cases of CMTX, loss of function of normal Cx32 is sufficient to cause CMTX.
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Document Type: Abstract

Affiliations: Brain Research Reviews 32: 203–214, 2000. Reprinted with permission from Elsevier Science BV.

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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