Defective trafficking and cell death is characteristic of skin disease-associated connexin 31 mutations

Wei-Li Di, James Monypenny, John E A Common, Cameron T C Kennedy, Katalin A Holland, Irene M Leigh, Elizabeth L Rugg, Daniel Zicha, David P Kelsell
Human Molecular Genetics 2002 August 15, 11 (17): 2005-14
Distinct germline mutations in the gene (GJB3) encoding connexin 31 (Cx31) underlie the skin disease erythrokeratoderma variabilis (EKV) or sensorineural hearing loss with/without peripheral neuropathy. Here we describe a number of functional analyses to investigate the effect of these different disease-associated Cx31 mutants on connexon trafficking and intercellular communication. Immunostaining of a biopsy taken from an EKV patient harbouring the R42P mutation revealed sparse epidermal staining of Cx31, and, when present, it had a perinuclear localization. Transfection and microinjection studies in both keratinocytes and fibroblast cell lines also demonstrated that R42P and four other EKV-associated mutant Cx31 proteins displayed defective trafficking to the plasma membrane. The deafness/neuropathy only mutant 66delD had primarily a cytoplasmic localization, but some protein was visualized at the plasma membrane in a few transfected cells. Both 66delD- and R32W-Cx31/EGFP proteins had significantly impaired dye transfer rates compared to wild-type Cx31/EGFP protein. A striking characteristic feature observed with the dominant skin disease Cx31 mutations was a high incidence of cell death. This was not observed with wild-type, R32W 66delD Cx31 proteins. In conclusion, we have identified some key cellular phenotypic differences with respect to disease-associated Cx31 mutations.

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