In less than a decade, a small family of channel-forming glycoproteins, named pannexins, have captured the interest of many biologists, in large part due to their association with common diseases, ranging from cancers to neuropathies to infectious diseases. Although the pannexin family consists of only three members (Panx1, Panx2 and Panx3), one or more of these pannexins are expressed in virtually every mammalian organ, implicating their potential role in a diverse array of pathophysiologies. Panx1 is the most extensively studied, but features of this pannexin must be cautiously extrapolated to the other pannexins, as for example we now know that Panx2, unlike Panx1, exhibits unique properties such as a tendency to be retained within intracellular compartments. In the present review, we assess the biochemical and channel features of pannexins focusing on the literature which links these unique molecules to over a dozen diseases and syndromes. Although no germ-line mutations in genes encoding pannexins have been linked to any diseases, many cases have shown that high pannexin expression is associated with disease onset and/or progression. Disease may also occur, however, when pannexins are underexpressed, highlighting that pannexin expression must be exquisitely regulated. Finally, we discuss some of the most pressing questions and controversies in the pannexin field as the community seeks to uncover the full biological relevance of pannexins in healthy organs and during disease.

You do not currently have access to this content.