Cryo-EM structure of human Cx31.3/GJC3 connexin hemichannel

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Science Advances  28 Aug 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 35, eaba4996
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba4996


Connexin family proteins assemble into hexameric channels called hemichannels/connexons, which function as transmembrane channels or dock together to form gap junction intercellular channels (GJIChs). We determined the cryo–electron microscopy structures of human connexin 31.3 (Cx31.3)/GJC3 hemichannels in the presence and absence of calcium ions and with a hearing-loss mutation R15G at 2.3-, 2.5-, and 2.6-Å resolutions, respectively. Compared with available structures of GJICh in open conformation, Cx31.3 hemichannel shows substantial structural changes of highly conserved regions in the connexin family, including opening of calcium ion–binding tunnels, reorganization of salt-bridge networks, exposure of lipid-binding sites, and collocation of amino-terminal helices at the cytoplasmic entrance. We also found that the hemichannel has a pore with a diameter of ~8 Å and selectively transports chloride ions. Our study provides structural insights into the permeant selectivity of Cx31.3 hemichannel.

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