Cx46 Gap Junctions Provide a Pathway for the Delivery of Glutathione to the Lens Nucleus [Membrane Biology]

October 7th, 2014 by Slavi, N., Rubinos, C., Li, L., Sellitto, C., White, T. W., Mathias, R., Srinivas, M.

Maintenance of adequate levels of glutathione (GSH) in the lens nucleus is critical for protection of lens proteins from the effects of oxidative stress and for lens transparency. How GSH is transported to the nucleus is unknown. We show that GSH diffuses to nucleus from the outer cortex, where a high concentration of the anti-oxidant is established by synthesis or uptake, via the network of gap junctions. Using electrophysiological measurements, we found that channels formed by Cx46 and Cx50, the two connexin isoforms expressed in the lens, were moderately cation-selective (PNa:PCl ~ 5:1 for Cx46 and ~ 3:1 for Cx50). Single channel permeation of the larger GSH anion was low but detectable (PNa:PGSH ~ 12:1 for Cx46 and ~ 8:1 for Cx50) whereas permeation of divalent anion glutathione disulfide (GSSG) was undetectable. Measurement of GSH levels in the lenses from connexin knockout (KO) mice indicated Cx46, and not Cx50, is necessary for transport of GSH to the core. Levels of GSH in the nucleus were markedly reduced in Cx46 KO, whereas they were unaffected by Cx50 KO. We also show that GSH delivery to the nucleus is not dependent on the lens microcirculation, which is believed to be responsible for extracellular transport of other nutrients to membrane transporters in the core. These results indicate that glutathione diffuses from cortical fiber cells to the nucleus via gap junction channels formed by Cx46. We present a model of GSH diffusion from outer cells to inner fiber cells through gap junctions.