Mouse and monkey adrenal glands were used to study the relationships between gap junction protein expression, intercellular communication and adrenal zonation. Dye communication patterns were determined by incubating freshly excised and hemisected adrenal glands in Lucifer yellow, a gap junction permeable fluorescent dye. Immunohistochemical techniques were used to localize adrenal gap junction proteins. The combination of these two techniques permitted the correlation of gap junction proteins with dye transfer and hormone responses in specialized regions of the adrenal cortex. Lucifer yellow dye communication was most pronounced in the inner glucocorticoid/androgen-producing regions (zona fasciculata/zona reticularis), but was virtually absent in the outer mainly mineralocorticoid-producing region (zona glomerulosa). This pattern of dye communication was coincident with immunohistochemical localization of the gap junction protein, alpha(1)Cx43. The variations in communication and alpha(1)Cx43 expression within the adrenal cortex are thought to be relevant to normal physiological regulation of the adrenal gland.
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