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Carcinogenesis. 2000 Feb;21(2):311-5.

Correlation between growth control, neoplastic potential and endogenous connexin43 expression in HeLa cell lines: implications for tumor progression.

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Molecular Carcinogenesis, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.


A HeLa cell line, obtained from the ATCC, was cloned and found to exhibit a spectrum of in vitro and in vivo growth characteristics as well as variable expression of endogenous connexin43 (Cx43), a widely expressed gap junction protein implicated in growth control. The majority of clones expressed functional Cx43, which contrasted with previous studies reporting that HeLa cells are completely negative for Cx43 mRNA/protein expression. This endogenous Cx43 expression correlated with increased growth control: Cx43-positive clones exhibited a decreased saturation density and a diminished growth capacity when in co-culture with growth-controlled normal cells in constrast to Cx43-negative clones. Endogenous Cx43 expression was negatively correlated with neoplastic potential as evidenced by attenuated anchorage-independent growth and decreased tumorigenicity in immunodeficient mice. Treatment of Cx43-negative cells with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine resulted in expression of Cx43, suggesting gene silencing via DNA methylation. These results support the concept of growth control via junctionally transmitted signals and suggest an epigenetic mechanism for tumor cells to circumvent this control during carcinogenesis. Moreover, the heterogeneous nature of this cell line and the ease of connexin43 gene induction suggest caution in the interpretation of results involving gene transfection using noninducible gene expression systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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