Eric Beyer, M.D., Ph.D.


  • Professor, Department of Pediatrics - Section of Hematology/Oncology, Committee on Cancer Biology, Committee on Molecular Medicine/MPMM


M.D.,   University of California, San Diego, 1982

Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 1981


The University of Chicago
KCBD 5152
900 East 57th Street 
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Phone:  (773) 834-1498


Studies of Gap Junction-Mediated Intercellular Communication

My laboratory is currently investigating the process of intercellular communication; our specific goal is a molecular understanding of the structure and function of gap junctions. Gap junctions are the specialized plasma membrane structures which contain low resistance channels linking adjacent cells. In excitable tissues, they permit electrical coupling; in non-excitable tissues, they permit passage of small molecules involved in metabolic support, growth control, and embryogenesis. They may also facilitate drug metabolite delivery between cells. In migratory cells (such as macrophages), which also express these proteins, they may facilitate more transient interactions. Recently, we and others have shown that connexins can make “hemi-channels” that link the cytoplasm and extracellular space; opening of connexin hemichannles may have major physiological and pathophysiological conasequences.

My laboratory has made a number of major contributions to this field starting with the cloning of cDNAs corresponding to gap junction proteins from a number of different tissues and species. These sequences demonstrated that there is a family of gap junction proteins (connexins) which are related in their transmembrane and extracellular regions, but which have unique cytoplasmic domains. Expression of these cloned connexins demonstrated that c onnexin-specific sequences confer different physiologic channel properties and regulation. We have also extensively studied the cellular biology of gap junction assembly and degradation. We have found evidence of regulation of connexin proteins by post translational modifications (including phosphorylation and ubiquitinylation).
Ongoing studies are focused in multiple areas:

·        Relationships between connexin sequence/structure and channel function
·        Cellular biology of gap junctions
·        The role of gap junction channels in cancer biology and treatment
·        Contributions of connexins to normal cardiac conduction and arrhythmias
·        Roles of connexin mutations in the pathogenesis of cataracts
·        Connexin hemichannels and cell injury

Research Papers on PubMed