Chronic exposure to hexachlorobenzene results in down-regulation of connexin43 in the breast

Environ Res. 2015 Nov;143(Pt A):229-40. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.10.020. Epub 2015 Oct 28.


Decreased expression of connexins has been associated with cancer, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. We have previously shown that a 5 day exposure to hexachlorobenzene (HCB) resulted in decreased connexins expression in hepatocytes 45 days later, and that this down-regulation was linked to activation of Akt through the ILK pathway. Because HCB promotes cancer in both the liver and breast, the present study aimed to determine if the mechanisms are similar in both tissues. MCF-12A breast cells were thus transfected with vectors coding for either Akt or a constitutively active form of Akt. In those cells, activation of Akt was correlated with decreased Cx43 levels. Female rats were then exposed to HCB by gavage either following the same protocol used previously for the liver or through a chronic exposure. While no changes were observed after the 5 days exposure protocol, chronic exposure to HCB resulted in increased Akt levels and decreased Cx43 levels in breast cells. In vitro, Akt was activated in MCF-12A cells exposed to HCB either for 7 days or chronically, but no changes were observed in junctional proteins. Together, these results suggested that, while activation of Akt can decrease Cx43 expression in breast cells in vitro, other mechanisms are involved during HCB exposure, leading to a decrease in Cx43 levels in a model- and duration-dependent manner. Finally, we showed that HCB effects are tissue specific, as we did not observe the same results in breast and liver tissues.

Keywords: Akt; Breast; Connexin43; Gap junction; Hexachlorobenzene; ILK.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Connexin 43 / biosynthesis*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Hexachlorobenzene / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / drug effects*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism
  • Mammary Glands, Human / cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Human / drug effects*
  • Mammary Glands, Human / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Transfection


  • Connexin 43
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt