Electron micrographs revealed the presence of gap junctions in osteoblastic cells over 40 years ago. These intercellular channels formed from connexins are present in bone forming osteoblasts, bone resorbing osteoclasts, and osteocytes (mature osteoblasts embedded in the mineralized bone matrix). More recently, genetic and pharmacologic studies revealed the role of connexins, and in particular Cx43, in the differentiation and function of all bone types. Furthermore, mutations in the gene encoding Cx43 were found to be causally linked to oculodentodigital dysplasia, a condition that results in an abnormal skeleton. Pannexins, molecules with similar structure and single-membrane channel forming potential as connexins when organized as hemichannels, are also expressed in osteoblastic cells. The function of pannexins in bone and cartilage is beginning to be uncovered, but more research is needed to determine the role of pannexins in bone development, adult bone mass and skeletal homeostasis. We describe here the current knowledge on the role of connexins and pannexins on skeletal health and disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology