Regulation of gap junctional intercellular communication by TCDD in HMEC and MCF-7 breast cancer cells

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Previous studies suggest that many neoplastic tissues exhibit a decrease in gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC). Many hydrocarbons and organochlorine compounds are environmental pollutants known to be carcinogenic. The effect of an organochlorine compound, TCDD, on GJIC in human breast cell lines has not been established. In the present study, we showed that TCDD causes an inhibition in the gap junctional activity in MCF-7 (breast cancer cells). In MCF-7 cells, an increase in the phosphorylated form of gap junctional protein, connexin 43 (Cx43), and PKC α was seen in the presence of TCDD. Gap junctional plaque formation was significantly decreased in MCF-7 cells in the presence of TCDD. Immunoprecipitation studies of PKC α showed that TCDD caused a significant 40% increase in the phosphorylated Cx43 in MCF-7 cells. TCDD also modulated the translocation of PKC α from the cytosol to the membrane and caused a 2-fold increase in the PKC α activity at 50 nM TCDD in MCF-7 cells. Calphostin C, an inhibitor of PKC α, showed a significant inhibition of PKC α activity in the presence of TCDD. Furthermore, TCDD also caused a decrease in the gap junctional activity and Cx43 protein in human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC). However, we observed a shift in the Cx43 plaques towards the perinuclear membrane in the presence of TCDD by confocal microscopy and Western blot. Overall, these results conclude that TCDD decreases GJIC by phosphorylating Cx43 via PKC α signaling pathway in MCF-7 cells; however, TCDD decreases the GJIC by affecting the localization of Cx43 in HMEC. These new findings elucidate the differential mode of effect of TCDD in the downregulation of GJIC in HMEC and MCF-7 cells.

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