Object: Malignant glioma cells, similar to astrocytes, express connexin43 (Cx43) universally but at widely varied levels. Data from previous studies have demonstrated that malignant glioma cells form functional gap junction channels among themselves as well as with astrocytes and that such a communication has the potential to modulate the phenotypic characteristics of astrocytes. Recently, gap junctions have been demonstrated to play a role in the invasive phenotype of malignant gliomas. In this study, the authors have further investigated the motility and invasion ability of Cx43-overexpressing and Cx43-deficient malignant glioma cells.
Methods: Using a standard invasion system of a Matrigel transwell invasion chamber, the authors found that the number of Cx43-transfected C6 glioma cells (C6-Cx43 cells) migrating through the Matrigel-coated membrane was similar to that of mock-transfected control cells (C6-mock cells) during the first 24 hours, but increased significantly thereafter. When these cells were cocultured with astrocytes, the number of invading C6-Cx43 cells was more than threefold greater than the number of invading C6-mock cells. Results of an in vitro cell motility assay also demonstrated that C6-Cx43 cells were more motile and scatter-active than C6-mock cells. Furthermore, zymographic analysis of MMPs, an important determinant in glioma invasion, demonstrated that the amounts of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in culture medium collected from C6-Cx43 cells were orders of magnitude higher than those from C6-mock cells. In addition, BB-94, a synthetic MMP inhibitor, significantly inhibited C6-Cx43 cell invasion.
Conclusions: The overexpression of gap junction proteins in glioma cells and the intercellular communication between tumor and nontumor glia cells may play important roles in the facilitation of glioma cell invasion.