Upregulation of connexin 43 protein expression and increased gap junctional communication by water soluble disodium disuccinate astaxanthin derivatives

Cancer Lett. 2004 Jul 28;211(1):25-37. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2004.01.036.


Carotenoids are plant pigments whose consumption is associated with lower cancer rates in humans. Studies in experimental animal and cell systems have confirmed the cancer chemopreventive activity of these compounds. However, their extremely hydrophobic nature makes these compounds biologically unavailable unless delivered in organic solution to model systems. We have synthesized novel disodium salt disuccinate astaxanthin derivatives that possess high aqueous dispersibility. When delivered to mouse embryonic fibroblast C3H/10T1/2 cell cultures, either in aqueous or aqueous/ethanol solutions, these derivatives are biologically active. Biological activity was demonstrated by (1) upregulated expression of connexin 43 (Cx43) protein; (2) increased formation of Cx43 immunoreactive plaques in regions of the plasma membrane consistent with localization of gap junctions; (3) significantly upregulated gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) as demonstrated by Lucifer Yellow dye transfer after microinjection (P < 0.03; Fisher's Exact test). Enhanced expression of Cx43 and increased GJIC have been previously demonstrated to result in inhibition of in vitro neoplastic transformation of 10T1/2 cells as well as growth reduction of human tumors in xenografts. These novel derivatives possess increased utility as water soluble and water dispersible agents, allowing for aqueous delivery both in vitro and in vivo, properties that could enhance their potential clinical utility as potent cancer chemopreventive agents.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Solutions
  • Up-Regulation
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / chemical synthesis
  • beta Carotene / pharmacology*


  • Connexin 43
  • Solutions
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene
  • astaxanthine