Connexins (Cxs) are integral membrane proteins of vertebrates that associate to form hexameric transmembrane channels, named hemichannels. Twenty-one Cx types have been described, which are named according to their molecular weight. Cxs are expressed in many cell types, e.g. epithelial cells, astrocytes and immune cells. Hemichannels allow the passage of molecules of up to 1-2 kDa along the concentration gradient. When surface-exposed, hemichannels mediate the exchange of molecules between the cytosol and the extracellular space. Hemichannels are closed by default, but several cues inducing their opening have been described, e.g. a drop in the extracellular Ca2+ concentration (Evans et al., 2006) or infection with enteric pathogens (Puhar et al., 2013; Tran Van Nhieu et al., 2003). This protocol was used with epithelial cells, in particular with polarized and non-polarized intestinal epithelial TC7 cells and with Hela cells that were stably transfected with Cx26 or Cx43 (Paemeleire et al., 2000). Nevertheless, it could likely be used with other Cx-expressing cell types. Whether hemichannels are open can be determined by electrophysiology or by measuring the release into the extracellular medium of a hemichannel permeable molecule (for example, ATP) or the uptake of a hemichannel-permeable, plasma membrane-impermeant molecule [for example, the fluorescent dye ethidium bromide-see associated protocol “Dye-uptake Experiment through Connexin Hemichannels” (Puhar and Sansonetti, 2014)].
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