Osteoblasts, osteocytes, and osteoprogenitor cells are interconnected into a functional network by gap junctions formed primarily by connexin43 (Cx43). Over the past two decades, it has become clear that Cx43 is important for the function of osteoblasts and osteocytes. This connexin contributes to the acquisition of peak bone mass and is a major modulator of cortical modeling. We review key data from human and mouse genetics on the skeletal consequences of ablation or mutation of the Cx43 gene (Gja1) and the molecular mechanisms by which Cx43 regulates the differentiation, function, and survival of osteogenic lineage cells. We also discuss putative second messengers that are communicated by Cx43 gap junctions, the role of hemichannels, and the function of Cx43 as a scaffold for signaling molecules. Current knowledge demonstrates that Cx43 is more than a passive channel; rather, it actively participates in the generation and modulation of cellular signals that drive skeletal development and homeostasis.
- Gap junction
- Signal transduction