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Keywords:

  • connexin29;
  • connexin32;
  • gap junctions;
  • Schwann cells;
  • sciatic nerve

Abstract

The recently discovered connexin29 (Cx29) was reported to be present in the central and peripheral nervous systems (CNS and PNS), and its mRNA was found in particular abundance in peripheral nerve. The expression and localization of Cx29 protein in sciatic nerve were investigated using an antibody against Cx29. The antibody recognized Cx29 in HeLa cells transfected with Cx29 cDNA, while nontransfected HeLa cells were devoid of Cx29. Immunoblotting of sciatic nerve homogenate revealed monomeric and possibly higher molecular weight forms of Cx29. These were distinguished from connexin32 (Cx32), which also is expressed in peripheral nerve. Double immunofluorescence labelling for Cx29 and Cx32 revealed only partial colocalization of the two connexins, with codistribution at intermittent, conical-shaped striations along nerve fibers. By freeze-fracture replica immunogold labelling (FRIL), Cx32 was found in gap junctions in the outermost layers of myelin, whereas Cx29-immunogold labelling was found only in the innermost layer of myelin in close association with hexagonally arranged intramembrane particle (IMP) ‘rosettes’ and gap junction-like clusters of IMPs. Although both Cx32 and Cx29 were detected in myelin of normal mice, only Cx29 was present in Schwann cell membranes in Cx32 knockout mice. The results confirm that Cx29 is a second connexin expressed in Schwann cells of sciatic nerve. In addition, Cx29 is present in distinctive IMP arrays in the inner most layer of myelin, adjacent to internodal axonal plasma membranes, where this connexin may have previously unrecognized functions.