Our previous work has shown that tolbutamide increases gap junctional permeability in poorly coupled C6 glioma cells and that this effect is similar and additive to that found with dbcAMP, a well-known activator of gap junctional communication. Furthermore, the increase in gap junctional communication promoted by tolbutamide or dbcAMP is concurrent with the inhibition of proliferation of C6 glioma cells. In the present work, we show that tolbutamide and dbcAMP increase the synthesis of the tumor suppressor protein Cx43 and that they decrease the level of Ki-67, a protein expressed when cells are proliferating. These effects were accompanied by a reduction in the phosphorylation of pRb, mainly on Ser-795, a residue critical for the control of cell proliferation. The decrease in the phosphorylation of pRb is not likely to be mediated by a reduction in the levels of D-type cyclins, since instead of decreasing the expression of cyclins, D1 and D3 increased slightly after treatment with tolbutamide or dbcAMP. However, the Cdk inhibitors p21 and p27 were up-regulated after treatment with tolbutamide and dbcAMP, suggesting that they would be involved in the decrease in pRb phosphorylation. When Cx43 was silenced by siRNA, neither tolbutamide nor dbcAMP were able to up-regulate p21 and consequently to reduce glioma cell proliferation, as judged by Ki-67 expression. In conclusion, tolbutamide and dbcAMP inhibit C6-glioma cell proliferation by increasing Cx43, which correlates with a reduction in pRb phosphorylation due to the up-regulation of the Cdk inhibitors p21 and p27.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.