Neurochem Int. 2004 Aug-Sep;45(2-3):429-36
Kielian T, Esen N.
Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham Street, Slot 510, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.
Gap junctions serve as intercellular conduits that allow for the direct transfer of small molecular weight molecules (up to 1kDa) including ions involved in cellular excitability, metabolic precursors, and second messengers.
The observation of extensive intercellular coupling and large numbers of gap junctions in the central nervous system (CNS) suggests a syncytium-like organization of glial compartments.
Inflammation is a hallmark of various CNS diseases such as bacterial and viral infections, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and cerebral ischemia.
A general consequence of brain inflammation is reactive gliosis typified by astrocyte hypertrophy and proliferation of astrocytes and microglia.
Changes in gap junction intercellular communication as reflected by alterations in dye coupling and connexin expression have been associated with numerous CNS inflammatory diseases, which may have dramatic implications on the survival of neuronal and glial populations in the context of neuroinflammation.
A review of the effects of inflammatory products on glia-glia gap junctional communication and glial glutamate release is presented.
In addition, the hypothesis of a "syncytial switch" based upon differential regulation of gap junction expression in astrocytes and microglia during normal CNS homeostasis and neuroinflammation is proposed.