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Crit Rev Oncog. 2006 Dec;12(3-4):225-56.

Downregulation of gap junctions in cancer cells.

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Department of Cancer Prevention, Institute for Cancer Research, Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet Medical Center, 0310 Oslo, Norway.


Gap junctions are intercellular plasma membrane domains enriched in channels that allow direct exchange of ions and small molecules between adjacent cells. Gap junction channels are composed of a family of transmembrane proteins called connexin. Connexins play important roles in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. Cancer cells usually have downregulated levels of gap junctions, and several lines of evidence suggest that loss of gap junctional intercellular communication is an important step in carcinogenesis. In support of this hypothesis are studies showing that reexpression of connexins in cancer cells causes normalization of cell growth control and reduced tumor growth. To gain a more detailed understanding of the role of connexins as tumor suppressors, a clearer picture of the mechanisms involved in loss of gap junctions in cancer cells is needed. Furthermore, defining the mechanisms involved in downregulation of connexins in carcinogenesis will be an important step toward utilizing the potential of connexins as targets in cancer prevention and therapy. Various mechanisms are involved in the loss of gap junctions in cancer cells, ranging from loss of connexin gene transcription to aberrant trafficking of connexin proteins. This review will discuss our current knowledge on the molecular mechanisms involved in the downregulation of gap junctions in cancer cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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