The loss or alteration of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) has long been proposed to play an important role in the process of carcinogenesis. In this study we examined the expression of three gap junction proteins, connexins (Cx)26, 43 and 31.1, in mouse hyperplastic skin, papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Tumors were induced in SENCAR mice by either of two initiation/promotion protocols: 7,12-dimethylbenz-[a]anthracene (DMBA)/12Otetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) or DMBA/benzoyl-peroxide (BzPo). Keratinocytes in adult mouse skin expressed Cx31.1 and Cx43 but did not express Cx26. Skin hyperplasia induced by one topical application of TPA was accompanied by hyper-expression of both Cx26 and Cx43. In addition, TPA significantly inhibited the expression of Cx31.1. After repetitive application of TPA for 3 weeks to initiated mouse skin, a similar Cx profile was found to that after a single TPA application. Connexin 26 and Cx43 were hyper-expressed in most of the papillomas studied (20-40 weeks after initiation). However, in some late papillomas, immunostaining revealed a focal loss of Cx26. Immunostaining of mouse skin SCC revealed decreased Cx43 and Cx26 levels in 65% and 85% of cases respectively. The high levels of Cx26 and Cx43 mRNA in most of the SCC did not correlate with the decreased abundance or disappearance of Cx26 and Cx43 immunoreactive spots from tumor plasma membranes. Thus, the expression of these two connexins in SCC was impaired at the post-translation level. Cx31.1 expression was strongly inhibited during all stages of carcinogenesis. Taken together, our results suggest that three different connexin genes are differentially regulated during mouse skin carcinogenesis and the decrease of connexin expression may be an important marker of skin tumor progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research