We have examined the specificity of communication between cells in culture by co-culturing cells derived from mammalian, avian, and arthropod organisms. Both mammalian and avian culture cells have similar gap junctional phenotypes, while the insect (arthropod) cell lines have a significantly different gap junctional structure. Electrophysiological and ultrastructural methods were used to examine ionic coupling and junctional interactions between homologous and heterologous cell types. In homologous cell systems, gap junctions and ionic coupling are present at a high incidence. Also, heterologous vertebrate cells in co-culture can communicate readily. By contrast, practically no coupling (0-8%) is detectable between heterologous insect cell lines (Homopteran or Lepidopteran) and vertebrate cells (mammalian myocardial or 3T3 cells). No gap junctions have been observed between arthropod and vertebrate cell types, even though the heterologous cells may be separated by less than 10 nm. In additional studies, a low incidence of coupling was found between heterologous insect cell lines derived from different arthropod orders. However, extensive coupling was detected between insect cell lines that are derived from the same order (Homoptera). These observations suggest that there is little or no apparent specificity for communication between vertebrate cells in culture that express the same gap junctional phenotype, while there is a definite communication specificity that exists between arthropod cells in culture.

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