Regulation of lens gap junctions by transforming growth factor beta

Bruce A. Boswell, Judy K. VanSlyke, Linda S. Musil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Gap junction-mediated intercellular communication (GJIC) is essential for the proper function of many organs, including the lens. GJIC in lens epithelial cells is increased by FGF in a concentration-dependent process that has been linked to the intralenticular gradient of GJIC required for lens transparency. Unlike FGF, elevated levels of TGF-β are associated with lens dysfunction. We show that TGF-β1 or -2 up-regulates dye coupling in serum-free primary cultures of chick lens epithelial cells (dissociated cell-derived monolayer cultures [DCDMLs]) via a mechanism distinct from that utilized by other growth factors. Remarkably, the ability of TGF-β and of FGF to up-regulate GJIC is abolished if DCDMLs are simultaneously exposed to both factors despite undiminished cell- cell contact. This reduction in dye coupling is attributable to an inhibition of gap junction assembly. Connexin 45.6, 43, and 56-containing gap junctions are restored, and intercellular dye coupling is increased, if the activity of p38 kinase is blocked. Our data reveal a new type of cross-talk between the FGF and TGF-βpathways, as well as a novel role for TGF-β and p38 kinase in the regulation of GJIC. They also provide an explanation for how pathologically increased TGF-β signaling could contribute to cataract formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1686-1697
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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