Connexin hemichannels regulate redox potential via metabolite exchange and protect lens against cellular oxidative damage

Yumeng Quan, Yu Du, Changrui Wu, Sumin Gu, Jean X. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Increased oxidative stress contributes to cataract formation during aging. Anterior epithelial cells are a frontline antioxidant defense system with powerful capacities to maintain redox homeostasis and lens transparency. In this study, we report a new molecular mechanism of connexin (Cx) hemichannels (HCs) in lens epithelial cells to protect lens against oxidative stress. Our results showed haploinsufficiency of Cx43 elevated oxidative stress and susceptibility to cataracts in the mouse lens. Cx43 HCs opened in response to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) or ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in human lens epithelium HLE-B3 cells, and this activation contributed to a cellular protective mechanism against oxidative stress-induced apoptotic cell death. Furthermore, we found that Cx43 HCs mediated the exchange of oxidants and antioxidants in lens epithelial cells undergoing oxidative stress. These transporting activities facilitated a reduction of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation and maintained the intracellular glutathione (GSH) level through the exchange of redox metabolites and change of anti-oxidative gene expression. In addition, we show that Cx43 HCs can be regulated by the intracellular redox state and this regulation is mediated by residue Cys260 located at the Cx43 C-terminus. Together, our results demonstrate that Cx43 HCs activated by oxidative stress in the lens epithelial cells play a key role in maintaining redox homeostasis in lens under oxidative stress. Our findings contribute to advancing our understanding of oxidative stress induced lens disorders, such as age-related non-congenital cataracts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102102
JournalRedox Biology
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Connexin
  • Hemichannel
  • Lens
  • Oxidative damage
  • Redox metabolite
  • Redox potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry


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