Cx43 and the Actin Cytoskeleton: Novel Roles and Implications for Cell-Cell Junction-Based Barrier Function Regulation
Strauss, Randy E.
Gourdie, Robert G.
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Barrier function is a vital homeostatic mechanism employed by epithelial and endothelial tissue. Diseases across a wide range of tissue types involve dynamic changes in transcellular junctional complexes and the actin cytoskeleton in the regulation of substance exchange across tissue compartments. In this review, we focus on the contribution of the gap junction protein, Cx43, to the biophysical and biochemical regulation of barrier function. First, we introduce the structure and canonical channel-dependent functions of Cx43. Second, we define barrier function and examine the key molecular structures fundamental to its regulation. Third, we survey the literature on the channel-dependent roles of connexins in barrier function, with an emphasis on the role of Cx43 and the actin cytoskeleton. Lastly, we discuss findings on the channel-independent roles of Cx43 in its associations with the actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesion structures highlighted by PI3K signaling, in the potential modulation of cellular barriers. Mounting evidence of crosstalk between connexins, the cytoskeleton, focal adhesion complexes, and junctional structures has led to a growing appreciation of how barrier-modulating mechanisms may work together to effect solute and cellular flux across tissue boundaries. This new understanding could translate into improved therapeutic outcomes in the treatment of barrier-associated diseases.