Many cells express multiple connexins, the gap junction proteins that interconnect the cytosol of adjacent cells. Connexin43 (Cx43) channels allow intercellular transfer of Lucifer Yellow (LY, MW = 443 D), while connexin45 (Cx45) channels do not. We transfected full-length or truncated chicken Cx45 into a rat osteosarcoma cell line ROS-17/2.8, which expresses endogenous Cx43. Both forms of Cx45 were expressed at high levels and colocalized with Cx43 at plasma membrane junctions. Cells transfected with full-length Cx45 (ROS/Cx45) and cells transfected with Cx45 missing the 37 carboxyl-terminal amino acids (ROS/Cx45tr) showed 30-60% of the gap junctional conductance exhibited by ROS cells. Intercellular transfer of three negatively charged fluorescent reporter molecules was examined. In ROS cells, microinjected LY was transferred to an average of 11.2 cells/injected cell, while dye transfer between ROS/Cx45 cells was reduced to 3.9 transfer between ROS/Cx45 cells was reduced to 3.9 cells. In contrast, ROS/Cx45tr cells transferred LY to > 20 cells. Transfer of calcein (MW = 623 D) was also reduced by approximately 50% in ROS/Cx45 cells, but passage of hydroxycoumarin carboxylic acid (HCCA; MW = 206 D) was only reduced by 35% as compared to ROS cells. Thus, introduction of Cx45 altered intercellular coupling between cells expressing Cx43, most likely the result of direct interaction between Cx43 and Cx45. Transfection of Cx45tr and Cx45 had different effects in ROS cells, consistent with a role of the carboxyl-terminal domain of Cx45 in determining gap junction permeability or interactions between connexins. These data suggest that coexpression of multiple connexins may enable cells to achieve forms of intercellular communication that cannot be attained by expression of a single connexin.

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