Connexins (Cx), gap junction (GJ) proteins, are regarded as tumor suppressors, and Cx43 expression is often down regulated in breast tumors. We assessed the effect of Cx43 over-expression in 2D and 3D cultures of two breast adenocarcinoma cell lines: MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231. While Cx43 over-expression decreased proliferation of 2D and 3D cultures of MCF-7 by 56% and 80% respectively, MDA-MB-231 growth was not altered in 2D cultures, but exhibited 35% reduction in 3D cultures. C-terminus truncated Cx43 did not alter proliferation. Untransfected MCF-7 cells formed spherical aggregates in 3D cultures, and MDA-MB-231 cells formed stellar aggregates. However, MCF-7 cells over-expressing Cx43 formed smaller sized clusters and Cx43 expressing MDA-MB-231 cells lost their stellar morphology. Extravasation ability of both MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells was reduced by 60% and 30% respectively. On the other hand, silencing Cx43 in MCF10A cells, nonneoplastic human mammary cell line, increased proliferation in both 2D and 3D cultures, and disrupted acinar morphology. Although Cx43 over-expression did not affect total levels of β-catenin, α-catenin and ZO-2, it decreased nuclear levels of β-catenin in 2D and 3D cultures of MCF-7 cells, and in 3D cultures of MDA-MB-231 cells. Cx43 associated at the membrane with α-catenin, β-catenin and ZO-2 in 2D and 3D cultures of MCF-7 cells, and only in 3D conditions in MDA-MB-231 cells. This study suggests that Cx43 exerts tumor suppressive effects in a context-dependent manner where GJ assembly with α-catenin, β-catenin and ZO-2 may be implicated in reducing growth rate, invasiveness, and, malignant phenotype of 2D and 3D cultures of MCF-7 cells, and 3D cultures of MDA-MB-231 cells, by sequestering β-catenin away from nucleus.
Keywords: Breast Cancer; Catenin; Connexin; Gap junction intercellular communication.
© 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc.