Previous studies have provided evidence for the transcripts of Cx43 and Cx45 within pancreatic islets. As of yet, however, it has proven difficult to unambiguously demonstrate the expression of these proteins by islet cells. We have investigated whether Cx36, a new connexin species recently identified in mammalian brain and retina, may also be expressed in pancreatic islets. Using probes that permitted the original identification of Cx36 in the central nervous system, we show that a transcript for Cx36 is clearly detectable in rat pancreatic islets. Using novel and affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies, we have found that Cx36 is actually expressed in pancreatic islets. Both in situ hybridization and immunolabeling indicated that this connexin is abundant in the centrally located insulin-producing beta-cells and is expressed much less, if at all, by the other endocrine cell types. This differential expression was further confirmed on fluorescence-activated cell sorter-purified preparations enriched in either beta- or non-beta-cells. The finding of a differential distribution of Cx36 within distinct regions of pancreatic islets creates the possibility that this connexin may provide the establishment of selective pathways of communication between the different types of endocrine cells comprising the pancreatic islet.

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