Context dependent reversion of tumor phenotype by connexin-43 expression in MDA-MB231 cells and MCF-7 cells: role of β-catenin/connexin43 association

Exp Cell Res. 2013 Dec 10;319(20):3065-80. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Connexin 43 / genetics*
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Binding
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism*


  • Connexin 43
  • beta Catenin