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Carcinogenesis. 2002 May;23(5):697-703.

Morphology and morphometric investigation of hepatocellular preneoplastic lesions and neoplasms in connexin32-deficient mice.

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  • 1Institut für Pathologie, Otto-von-Guericke-Universität, Magdeburg, Germany.


Gap junctions are composed of protein subunits, called connexins, and provide a pathway for the exchange of ions and small molecules between contacting cells. This transfer of molecules is thought to be an important pathway for direct cell communication, and is involved in tissue homeostasis, growth control and embryonic development. Impairment of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) via different mechanisms may therefore contribute to dysregulated cellular proliferation and subsequent tumor development. We investigated the effect of Connexin32-deficiency on liver histology and the formation of preneoplastic foci and hepatocellular neoplasms in transgenic knockout mice, as Connexin32 (Cx32) is the major gap junction protein in the liver. Loss of Cx32 does not alter the morphology of extrafocal liver tissue. However, after administration of a single dose of diethylnitrosamine (DEN), given 2 weeks after birth, the number and volume fraction of preneoplastic foci showed a 3.3-fold to 12.8-fold increase in the Cx32-deficient mice as compared with the corresponding wildtype groups, regardless of sex and age of the animals. Number and volume fraction of hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas also increased significantly in these animals. The experimental groups did not differ in the morphology of the different types of preneoplastic foci and neoplasms. On the other hand, Cx32-deficiency without DEN treatment did not lead to an increase in the spontaneous development of any type of preneoplastic hepatic foci or hepatocellular neoplasms in up to 18-month-old Cx32-deficient mice as compared with wildtype controls. In conclusion, our results indicate that impairment of GJIC in mouse liver due to deletion of the Cx32 coding DNA clearly promotes the carcinogenic effect of DEN administration and results in a higher susceptibility to hepatocellular neoplasms, but does not appear to initiate hepatic tumor development.

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