Functions of connexins and large pore channels on microglial cells: The gates to environment.
ABSTRACT Microglial cells are not only sensitive indicators for pathology of the central nervous system (CNS), they are a key factor for neurotoxicity and degeneration in many diseases. Neuronal damage leads to reactive gliosis and to activation of microglia including cytoarchitectonic changes accompanied by alterations in surface receptor and channel expression. In this context, the release of neuroactive soluble factors like pro-inflammatory cytokines can result in increased cellular motility and a higher grade of phagocytotic activity. Ligands including glutamate, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), cytokines, superoxide radicals and neurotrophins released by microglia have in turn effects on neuronal function and cell death. The current review focuses on large pore and hemichannel function in microglial cells under different conditions of activation and elucidates the role of these channels in cytokine release, as well as putative targets for clinical intervention in case of inflammatory processes. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Electrical Synapses.
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ABSTRACT: The coordination of tissue function is mediated by gap junctions (GJs) that enable direct cell-cell transfer of metabolic and electric signals. GJs are formed by connexins of which Cx43 is most widespread in the human body. In the brain, Cx43 GJs are mostly found in astroglia where they coordinate the propagation of Ca(2+) waves, spatial K(+) buffering, and distribution of glucose. Beyond its role in direct intercellular communication, Cx43 also forms unapposed, non-junctional hemichannels in the plasma membrane of glial cells. These allow the passage of several neuro- and gliotransmitters that may, combined with downstream paracrine signaling, complement direct GJ communication among glial cells and sustain glial-neuronal signaling. Mutations in the GJA1 gene encoding Cx43 have been identified in a rare, mostly autosomal dominant syndrome called oculodentodigital dysplasia (ODDD). ODDD patients display a pleiotropic phenotype reflected by eye, hand, teeth, and foot abnormalities, as well as craniofacial and bone malformations. Remarkably, neurological symptoms such as dysarthria, neurogenic bladder (manifested as urinary incontinence), spasticity or muscle weakness, ataxia, and epilepsy are other prominent features observed in ODDD patients. Over 10 mutations detected in patients diagnosed with neurological disorders are associated with altered functionality of Cx43 GJs/hemichannels, but the link between ODDD-related abnormal channel activities and neurologic phenotype is still elusive. Here, we present an overview on the nature of the mutants conveying structural and functional changes of Cx43 channels and discuss available evidence for aberrant Cx43 GJ and hemichannel function. In a final step, we examine the possibilities of how channel dysfunction may lead to some of the neurological manifestations of ODDD.Frontiers in Pharmacology 01/2013; 4:120.
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ABSTRACT: Synaptic plasticity is critical for elaboration and adaptation in the developing and developed brain. It is well established that astrocytes play an important role in the maintenance of what has been dubbed "the tripartite synapse". Increasing evidence shows that a fourth cell type, microglia, is critical to this maintenance as well. Microglia are the resident macrophages of the central nervous system (CNS). Because of their well-characterized inflammatory functions, research has primarily focused on their innate immune properties. The role of microglia in the maintenance of synapses in development and in homeostasis is not as well defined. A number of significant findings have shed light on the critical role of microglia at the synapse. It is becoming increasingly clear that microglia play a seminal role in proper synaptic development and elimination.Neural Plasticity 01/2013; 2013:627325. · 2.86 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Emerging evidence indicates that activation of microglia, the immune cells of the brain, is strictly associated to both secretion of soluble molecules and release of extracellular membrane vesicles (EMVs) into the pericellular space. Through these processes, microglia heavily influence brain cell functions, either propagating inflammation and causing damage to neurons or playing a supportive, neuroprotective role. In this review, we highlight the emerging concepts related to vesicular mechanisms of secretion operating in microglial cells, with the aim of dissecting how microglia communicate with other cell types within the brain microenvironment in health and disease.Glia 04/2013; · 5.07 Impact Factor