Inhibition of gap junctional intercellular communication by perfluorinated fatty acids is dependent on the chain length of the fluorinated tail

Int J Cancer. 1998 Nov 9;78(4):491-5. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(19981109)78:4<491::aid-ijc16>;2-9.


Perfluorinated fatty acids (PFFAs), such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), are known peroxisome proliferators and hepatocarcinogens. A causal link between an increase in the oxidative stress by peroxisomes and tumor promotion has been proposed to explain the hepatocarcinogenicity of PFOA and PFDA. However, the down-regulation of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) has also been linked to the tumor-promoting properties of many carcinogens. Therefore, the effect of PFFAs on GJIC in WB-rat liver epithelial cells was determined. The chain length of the PFFAs tested for an effect on GJIC ranged from 2 to 10, 16 and 18 carbons. Carbon lengths of 7 to 10 inhibited GJIC in a dose-response fashion, whereas carbon lengths of 2 to 5, 16 and 18 did not appreciably inhibit GJIC. Inhibition occurred within 15 min and was reversible, with total recovery from inhibition occurring within 30 min after the removal of the compound from the growth medium. This short time of inhibition suggests that GJIC was modified at the post-translational level. Also, this short time period was not long enough for peroxisome proliferation. The post-translational modification of the gap junction proteins was not a consequence of altered phosphorylation as determined by Western blot analysis. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid also inhibited GJIC in a dose-response fashion similar to PFDA, indicating that the determining factor of inhibition was probably the fluorinated tail, which required 7-10 carbons. Our results suggest that PFFAs could potentially act as hepatocarcinogens at the level of gap junctions in addition to or instead of through peroxisome proliferation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Gap Junctions / drug effects*
  • Hydrocarbons, Fluorinated / chemistry*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Peroxisome Proliferators / chemistry
  • Peroxisome Proliferators / pharmacology*
  • Peroxisome Proliferators / toxicity
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Fatty Acids
  • Hydrocarbons, Fluorinated
  • Peroxisome Proliferators