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.