Connexin46 (cxn46) is a gap junctional protein that was cloned from a rat lens cDNA library. Expression of cxn46 in solitary Xenopus oocytes resulted in the development of a large time- and voltage-dependent current that was not observed in noninjected control oocytes or in oocytes injected with mRNA for cxn43 or cxn32. The cxn46-induced current activated at potentials positive to -20 mV. On repolarization to -40 mV, the current deactivated over a period of several seconds. Removal of external calcium caused a marked increase in the amplitude of the cxn46-induced current, shifted the steady-state activation curve to more negative potentials, and altered the kinetics of activation and deactivation. Increasing external calcium had the opposite effect. The ability of cxn46 to induce the formation of cell-to-cell channels was tested in the oocyte pair system. Oocyte pairs injected with cxn46 mRNA + antisense oligonucleotides for Xenopus cxn38 were strongly coupled. In contrast, oocyte pairs injected with antisense alone showed no coupling. The inactivation kinetics of the gap junctional channels resembled the deactivation kinetics of the cxn46-induced current in solitary oocytes.

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