Journal Article

Mice deficient for the gap junction protein Connexin32 exhibit increased radiation-induced tumorigenesis associated with elevated mitogen-activated protein kinase (p44/Erk1, p42/Erk2) activation

Timothy J. King and Paul D. Lampe

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 25, issue 5, pages 669-680
Published in print May 2004 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online May 2004 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgh071
Mice deficient for the gap junction protein Connexin32 exhibit increased radiation-induced tumorigenesis associated with elevated mitogen-activated protein kinase (p44/Erk1, p42/Erk2) activation

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Loss of connexin expression/gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC) has been correlated with decreased growth control and increased tumorigenesis. Studies utilizing Connexin32 (Cx32)-deficient knockout mice have demonstrated that loss of Cx32 increases susceptibility to chemically induced liver tumorigenesis. Here, in addition to dramatically increased liver tumorigenesis, we show that tumor induction utilizing X-ray radiation resulted in a statistically significant increase in overall tumor burden in Cx32-deficient mice compared with wild-type mice due to tumorigenesis in several other tissues (lung, adrenal, lymph and small intestine) even when excluding prevalent liver tumors. Irradiated Cx32-deficient mice were particularly sensitive to liver tumorigenesis (46% incidence compared with 18% in wild-type mice, P = 0.007) demonstrating that Cx32 functions as a hepatic tumor suppressor in response to radiation-associated mutation events. Cx32-deficient mice also exhibited increased lung tumorigenesis (bronchioloalveolar) with an increased progression to carcinoma when compared with wild-type mice. Two Cx32-deficient mice developed an uncommon, invasive medullary adrenal tumor type (pheochromocytoma) not observed in irradiated wild-type mice. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed increased levels of activated mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) (p44/Erk1, p42/Erk2) in Cx32-deficient mouse liver tumors (P = 0.006), lung tumors (P = 0.056) and adrenal tumors (primary and metastases) compared with wild-type counterparts implicating elevated activation of MAPK-interacting pathways in Cx32-deficient tumorigenesis. Interestingly, lung tumors from Cx32-deficient mice also demonstrated decreased p27Kip1 levels compared with wild-type lung tumors (P = 0.05). This study demonstrates that loss of Cx32/GJIC plays a significant role in radiation-induced tumorigenesis of the liver and importantly that Cx32 may also play a role in tumor suppression and/or tumor progression in other tissue types such as lung and adrenal gland. Additionally, this mouse model suggests that MAPK-related pathways may be preferentially activated or conversely that tumors harboring activated MAPK pathways may selectively progress towards more advanced tumor states in the absence of Cx32-mediated GJIC.

Keywords: Cx32, Connexin32; DEN, diethylnitrosamine; GJIC, gap junction intercellular communication

Journal Article.  7535 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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