Tumour necrosis factor alpha alters the expression of connexin43, connexin40, and connexin37 in human umbilical vein endothelial cells

Cytokine. 1998 Apr;10(4):258-64. doi: 10.1006/cyto.1997.0287.


Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) plays an important role in orchestrating inflammatory responses with the vascular endothelium as main target cell type, and was found to promote migration of endothelial cells, as occurs in wound healing processes. Substantial evidence exists that endothelial cell migration in wound healing is related to changes in cell coupling by means of gap junctions. Gap junctions are agglomerates of cell-to-cell channels that allow direct electrical and metabolic communication between cells. The authors have investigated whether TNF-alpha alters the expression of gap junction proteins (connexins, Cx) between human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC), thereby changing the extent of intercellular communication, as measured by dye coupling. Under control conditions, Cx43, Cx40, and Cx37 protein and mRNA were present in HUVEC. After exposure to 0.5 nM TNF-alpha for 48 h, however, the authors were no longer able to detect Cx37 and Cx40 protein, whereas Cx43 levels seemed unaltered but showed more perinuclear staining. After 24 and 48 h exposure to TNF-alpha, levels of Cx37 and Cx40 mRNA, were reduced, while the level of Cx43 mRNA remained unaltered, suggesting transcriptional regulation. If TNF-alpha was removed from the medium, Cx37 and Cx40 expression was restored within 24 h. The modulation of connexin expression by TNF-alpha resulted in a decrease in dye coupling of 40%.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Connexin 43 / biosynthesis*
  • Connexin 43 / genetics
  • Connexins / biosynthesis*
  • Connexins / genetics
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*
  • Umbilical Veins


  • Connexin 43
  • Connexins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • connexin 37
  • connexin 40
  • lucifer yellow