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Keywords:

  • calcium wave;
  • connexin;
  • gap junctions;
  • hemichannels;
  • intercellular communication;
  • pannexin

Abstract

Intercellular communication (IC) is mediated by gap junctions (GJs) and hemichannels, which consist of proteins. This has been particularly well documented for the connexin (Cx) family. Initially, Cxs were thought to be the only proteins capable of GJ formation in vertebrates. About 10 years ago, however, a new GJ-forming protein family related to invertebrate innexins (Inxs) was discovered in vertebrates, and named the pannexin (Panx) family. Panxs, which are structurally similar to Cxs, but evolutionarily distinct, have been shown to be co-expressed with Cxs in vertebrates. Both protein families show distinct properties and have their own particular function. Identification of the mechanisms that control Panx channel gating is a major challenge for future work. In this review, we focus on the specific properties and role of Panxs in normal and pathological conditions.