Gap junctions are made up of connexin proteins, which comprise a multigene family in mammals. Targeted mutagenesis of connexin43 (Cx43), one of the most prevalent connexin proteins, showed that its absence was compatible with survival of mouse embryos to term, even though mutant cell lines showed reduced dye coupling in vitro. However, mutant embryos died at birth, as a result of a failure in pulmonary gas exchange caused by a swelling and blockage of the right ventricular outflow tract from the heart. This finding suggests that Cx43 plays an essential role in heart development but that there is functional compensation among connexins in other parts of the developing fetus.

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