Inhibition of estrogen receptor reduces connexin 43 expression in breast cancers

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Connexins are widely supported as tumor suppressors due to their downregulation in cancers, nevertheless, more recent evidence suggests roles for connexins in facilitating tumor progression in later stages, including metastasis. One of the key factors regulating the expression, modification, stability, and localization of connexins is hormone receptors in hormone-dependent cancers. It is reasonable to consider that hormones/hormone receptors may modulate connexins expression and play critical roles in the cellular control of connexins during breast cancer progression. In estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers, tamoxifen and fulvestrant are widely used therapeutic agents and are considered to alter ER signaling. In this present study, we investigated the effects of fulvestrant and tamoxifen in Cx43 expression, and we also explored the role of Cx43 in ER-positive breast cancer migration and the relationship between Cx43 and ER. The involvement of estrogen/ER in Cx43 modulation was further verified by administering tyrosine kinase inhibitors and chemotherapeutic agents. We found that inhibition of ER promoted the binding of E3 ligase Nedd4 to Cx43, leading to Cx43 ubiquitination. Furthermore, inhibition of ER by fulvestrant and tamoxifen phosphorylated p38 MAPK, and inhibition of Rac, MKK3/6, and p38 reversed fulvestrant-reduced Cx43 expression. These findings suggest that Cx43 expression which may positively regulate cell migration is ER-dependent in ER-positive breast cancer cells.HighlightsCx43 is positively correlated with ER expression in ER-positive breast cancers.Inhibition of ER reduces Cx43 expression through Rac/MKK3/6/p38 pathway.Inhibition of ER leads to Cx43 degradation via ubiquitin-proteasome pathway.

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