Connexins and their environment: Effects of lipids composition on ion channels
Intercellular communication is mediated through paired connexons that form an aqueous pore between two adjacent cells. These membrane proteins reside in the plasma membrane of their respective cells and their activity is modulated by the composition of the lipid bilayer. The effects of the bilayer on connexon structure and function may be direct or indirect, and may arise from specific binding events or the physicochemical properties of the bilayer. While the effects of the bilayer and its constituent lipids on gap junction activity have been described in the literature, the underlying mechanisms of the interaction of connexin with its lipidic microenvironment are not as well characterized. Given that the information regarding connexons is limited, in this review, the specific roles of lipids and the properties of the bilayer on membrane protein structure and function are described for other ion channels as well as for connexons. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.