Connexin hemichannels mediate glutathione transport and protect lens fiber cells from oxidative stress

Wen Shi, Manuel A. Riquelme, Sumin Gu, Jean X. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Elevated oxidizedstress contributestolens cataracts,and gap junctions play important roles in maintaining lens transparency. As well as forming gap junctions, connexin (Cx) proteins also form hemichannels. Here, we report a new mechanism whereby hemichannels mediate transport of reductant glutathione into lens fiber cells and protect cells against oxidative stress. We found that Cx50 (also known as GJA8) hemichannels opened in response to H2O2 in lens fiber cells but that transport through the channels was inhibited by two dominant-negative mutants in Cx50, Cx50P88S, which inhibits transport through both gap junctions and hemichannels, and Cx50H156N, which only inhibits transport through hemichannels and not gap junctions. Treatment with H2O2 increased the number of fiber cells undergoing apoptosis, and this increase was augmented with dominant-negative mutants that disrupted both hemichannels formed from Cx46 (also known as GJA3) and Cx50, while Cx50E48K, which only impairs gap junctions, did not have suchan effect.Moreover, hemichannelsmediate uptake of glutathione, and this uptake protected lens fiber cells against oxidative stress, while hemichannels with impaired transport had less protective benefit from glutathione. Taken together, these results show that oxidative stress activates connexin hemichannels in the lens fiber cells and that hemichannels likely protect lens cell against oxidative damage through transporting extracellular reductants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjcs212506
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Connexin
  • Glutathione
  • Hemichannel
  • Lens fiber cell
  • Oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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