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Connexin43 phosphorylation state and intercellular communication in cultured astrocytes following hypoxia and protein phosphatase inhibition


: Professor J. I. Nagy, as above.


The effects of hypoxia and phosphatase inhibitors on connexin43 (Cx43) phosphorylation state, gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) and immunolabelling with anti-Cx43 antibodies were investigated in cultured astrocytes. Astrocytes contained predominantly phosphorylated forms of Cx43 and these underwent dephosphorylation 30 min after hypoxia. This was preceded by a 77% reduction in GJIC 15 min after hypoxia, indicating that reduced GJIC occurs prior to Cx43 dephosphorylation. Hypoxia caused a reduction in punctate immunostaining (epitope masking) at cell–cell contacts with one anti-Cx43 antibody, and increased labelling with another antibody (13–8300) that detects only a dephosphorylated form of Cx43. Inhibition of protein phosphatase (PP)-1 and PP-2A with okadaic acid or calyculin A had little effect on hypoxia-induced Cx43 dephosphorylation. Inhibition of PP-2B (calcineurin) with cyclosporin A or FK506 reduced Cx43 dephosphorylation and junctional uncoupling seen after hypoxia. These results demonstrate that responses of astrocytic Cx43 to hypoxia in vitro are similar to those seen after ischaemia in vivo, and that inhibition of protein phosphatase protects astrocytes from hypoxia-induced Cx43 dephosphorylation and junctional uncoupling. In addition, calcineurin may play a direct role in the regulation of astrocytic GJIC and Cx43 phosphorylation state.