Gap junction (GJ) channels couple adjacent cells, allowing transfer of second messengers, ions, and molecules up to 1 kDa. These channels are composed by a multigene family of integral membrane proteins called connexins (Cx). In the retina, besides being essential circuit element in the visual processing, GJ channels also play important roles during its development. Herein, we analyzed Cx43, Cx45, Cx50, and Cx56 expression during chick retinal histogenesis. Cx exhibited distinct expression profiles during retinal development, except for Cx56, whose expression was not detected. Cx43 immunolabeling was observed at early development, in the transition of ventricular zone and pigmented epithelium. Later, Cx43 was seen in the outer plexiform and ganglion cell layers, and afterwards also in the inner plexiform layer. We observed remarkable changes in the phosphorylation status of this protein, which indicated modifications in functional properties of this Cx during retinal histogenesis. By contrast, Cx45 showed stable gene expression levels throughout development and ubiquitous immunoreactivity in progenitor cells. From later embryonic development, Cx45 was mainly observed in the inner retina, and it was expressed by glial cells and neurons. In turn, Cx50 was virtually absent in the chick retina at initial embryonic phases. Combination of PCR, immunohistochemistry and Western blot indicated that this Cx was present in differentiated cells, arising in parallel with the formation of the visual circuitry. Characterization of Cx expression in the developing chick retina indicated particular roles for these proteins and revealed similarities and differences when compared to other species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience