Effect of gap junction-mediated intercellular communication on TGF-β induced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.


Department of Cellular Physiological Chemistry, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, 1-5-45, Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-8510, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]


Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is the process in which epithelial cells lose cell polarity and cell adhesion with surrounding cells to obtain migratory and invasive abilities. On the other hand, the expression of connexin is decreased or lacked in the many types of tumor cells. This study examined the effect of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) on EMT induced by the transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). To investigate the effect of GJIC on EMT in U2OS cells, smooth muscle 22-α (sm22α) promoter-driven luciferase reporter gene was introduced into Cx43-expressing cells (U2OS-Luc Cx43) and into the control parental cell line (U2OS-Luc). TGF-β1 induced the expression of EMT markers and the sm22α promoter activity of U2OS-Luc cells. Sm22α promoter activity of U2OS cells was neither dependent on the expression of Cx43 nor on the establishment of GJIC among U2OS cells. Furthermore, we found that the homocellular communication among tumor cells did not affected the tumor cell growth and migration. However, we revealed that tumor cell density was an important factor for tumor cells to acquire metastatic phenotype. Interestingly, the co-culture of U2OS cells with osteoblasts revealed that sm22α promoter activity was inhibited only by the GJIC established between these two cell types. These results suggest that normal osteoblast cells negatively regulate the EMT of tumor cells, at least in part. Thus, Cx43-mediated GJIC may have anti-metastatic activity in tumor cells. Our findings provide a new insight into the role of GJIC in cancer progression and metastasis and identify potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of cancer.


Connexin 43,Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT),Osteoblasts,Osteosarcoma,Smooth muscle 22-α promoter,Transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1),