TLR2 mediates gap junctional intercellular communication through connexin-43 in intestinal epithelial barrier injury

Birgit Ey, Annette Eyking, Guido Gerken, Daniel K. Podolsky, Elke Cario

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

77 Scopus citations


Gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) coordinates cellular functions essential for sustaining tissue homeostasis; yet its regulation in the intestine is not well understood. Here, we identify a novel physiological link between Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2 and GJIC through modulation of Connexin-43 (Cx43) during acute and chronic inflammatory injury of the intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) barrier. Data from in vitro studies reveal that TLR2 activation modulates Cx43 synthesis and increases GJIC via Cx43 during IEC injury. The ulcerative colitis-associated TLR2-R753Q mutant targets Cx43 for increased proteasomal degradation, impairing TLR2-mediated GJIC during intestinal epithelial wounding. In vivo studies using mucosal RNA interference show that TLR2-mediated mucosal healing depends functionally on intestinal epithelial Cx43 during acute inflammatory stress-induced damage. Mice deficient in TLR2 exhibit IEC-specific alterations in Cx43, whereas administration of a TLR2 agonist protects GJIC by blocking accumulation of Cx43 and its hyperphosphorylation at Ser368 to prevent spontaneous chronic colitis in MDR1α-deficient mice. Finally, adding the TLR2 agonist to three-dimensional intestinal mucosa-like cultures of human biopsies preserves intestinal epithelial Cx43 integrity and polarization ex vivo. In conclusion, Cx43 plays an important role in innate immune control of commensal-mediated intestinal epithelial wound repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22332-22343
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 14 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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