Intercellular co-operation is a fundamental and widespread feature in tissues and organs. An important mechanism ensuring multicellular homoeostasis involves signalling between cells via gap junctions that directly connect the cytosolic contents of adjacent cells. Cell proliferation and intercellular communication across gap junctions are closely linked, and a number of pathologies in which communication is disrupted are known where connexins, the gap-junctional proteins, are modified. The proteins of gap junctions thus emerge as therapeutic targets inviting the development and exploitation of chemical tools and drugs that specifically influence intercellular communication. Connexin mimetic peptides that correspond to short specific sequences in the two extracellular loops of connexins are a class of benign, specific and reversible inhibitors of gap-junctional communication that have been studied recently in a broad range of cells, tissues and organs. This review summarizes the properties and uses of these short synthetic peptides, and compares their probable mechanism of action with those of a wide range of other less specific traditional gap-junction inhibitors.

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