Calcium signaling in C6 glioma cells in culture was examined with digital fluorescence video microscopy. C6 cells express low levels of the gap junction protein connexin43 and have correspondingly weak gap junctional communication as evidenced by dye coupling (Naus, C. C. G., J. F. Bechberger, S. Caveney, and J. X. Wilson. 1991. Neurosci. Lett. 126:33-36). Transfection of C6 cells with the cDNA encoding connexin43 resulted in clones with increased expression of connexin43 mRNA and protein and increased dye coupling, as well as markedly reduced rates of proliferation (Zhu, D., S. Caveney, G. M. Kidder, and C. C. Naus. 1991. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 88:1883-1887; Naus, C. C. G., D. Zhu, S. Todd, and G. M. Kidder. 1992. Cell Mol. Neurobiol. 12:163-175). Mechanical stimulation of a single cell in a culture of non-transfected C6 cells induced a wave of increased intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) that showed little or no communication to adjacent cells. By contrast, mechanical stimulation of a single cell in cultures of C6 clones expressing transfected connexin43 cDNA induced a Ca2+ wave that was communicated to multiple surrounding cells, and the extent of communication was proportional to the level of expression of the connexin43 cDNA. These results provide direct evidence that intercellular Ca2+ signaling occurs via gap junctions. Ca2+ signaling through gap junctions may provide a means for the coordinated regulation of cellular function, including cell growth and differentiation.
The mRNAs for two isotypes of alpha-tubulin, termed T alpha 1 and T26, are known to be expressed in the rat nervous system. We have compared the expression of these two alpha-tubulin mRNAs during neural development, using RNA blotting and in situ hybridization techniques with probes directed against unique sequences of each mRNA. T alpha 1 mRNA is highly enriched in the embryonic nervous system but is markedly less abundant in the adult brain; T26 mRNA is expressed in many embryonic tissues with little change in abundance during development. Within the nervous system, T alpha 1 mRNA is enriched in regions with neurons actively undergoing neurite extension, such as the cortical plate, whereas T26 mRNA is relatively homogeneous in distribution, with some enrichment in proliferative zones. Expression of T alpha 1 mRNA is also increased in PC12 cells induced to differentiate and extend neurite processes by nerve growth factor. Taken together, the data indicate that T alpha 1-tubulin mRNA is expressed at high levels during the extension of neuronal processes. The abundant expression of T alpha 1-tubulin mRNA may therefore reflect either a means to increase the available pool of alpha-tubulin or a specific requirement for the T alpha 1 isotype for neurite extension.