Connexin43 pseudogene is expressed in tumor cells and inhibits growth

Oncogene. 2004 Jun 10;23(27):4763-70. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1207506.


Pseudogenes are classically thought of as nonfunctional DNA sequences due to their inability to be translated, or to produce a functional protein. Gap junctions, a multiprotein complex made of proteins called connexins, are involved in intercellular communication and are deregulated in many cancers. Connexin43 (Cx43) is the only connexin for which a pseudogene has been reported so far. The Cx43 pseudogene (PsiCx43) has all of the features of an expressed gene. We identified the presence of a PsiCx43 mRNA transcript in several cancer cell lines and in none of the normal mammary epithelial cells studied. Using an in vitro translation assay, we found that the PsiCx43 coding plasmid could be translated into a 43 kDa protein. This was further confirmed by expressing a PsiCx43-green fluorescence protein fusion protein in breast cancer MCF-7 cells. We then examined the functional significance of the PsiCx43. In both MTT growth and colony formation assays, significant growth inhibition was observed, a feature common to cells overexpressing the Cx43 gene. However, using a scrape-loading assay, we could not detect any effect on gap junctional intercellular communication. Based on our findings, PsiCx43 joins and enlarges the thus far restricted group of functionally transcribed and translated pseudogenes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Division / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival
  • Cell-Free System
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Connexin 43 / chemistry
  • Connexin 43 / genetics*
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Pseudogenes*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Connexin 43
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins