During office hours today, we talked a bit about connexons. Connexons are the little structures in gap junctions that allow ions and other small molecules to pass from cell to cell. Here’s slide 34 from our Epithelium lecture – it shows a cutaway diagram of a gap junction; the connexons are the little round blue things:
Connexons can open and close, which is smart, because that allows you to control the flow of ions (or whatever) from cell to cell. That’s about all you need to know about connexons for our purposes. I mentioned during office hours that I’d post a picture that shows the connexons in a little more detail – here it is:
They really do look like flowers, don’t they? They open and close with a twisting motion – and when open, they have a little channel in the center. There’s a lot more detail to how these structures work – but that’s beyond the scope of our course (as well as boards and other dental school courses), so I’ll stop here.