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Int J Biol Sci. 2019 Jan 1;15(3):598-609. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.29582. eCollection 2019.

A novel role of Cx43-composed GJIC in PDT phototoxicity: an implication of Cx43 for the enhancement of PDT efficacy.

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Jiangsu Key Laboratory of New Drug Research and Clinical Pharmacy, Pharmacy School of Xuzhou Medical University, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province, 221004, P.R. China.
Department of Pharmacology, Pharmacy School of Xuzhou Medical University, 221004, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province, P.R. China.
Department of Pharmacy,Wuxi Ninth Affiliated Hospital of Suzhou University, 214062, Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, P.R. China.
Scientific research center of traditional Chinese medicine, Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine, Nanning, Guangxi 530200, China.


In spite of initially promising responses, 5-year recurrence after photodynamic therapy (PDT) sustains high level and an increase in PDT effectiveness is needed. It has been demonstrated that gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) formed by Connexin (Cx)43 could improve the transfer of "death signal" between cells, thereby causing the enhancement of cytotoxicity of chemotherapeutics and suicide gene therapy. Nevertheless, whether Cx43-composed GJIC has an effect on PDT phototoxicity remains unknown. This study showed that Cx43-formed GJIC could improve PDT phototoxicity to tumor cells in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, Cx43-formed GJIC under the condition of high cellular density could improve PDT phototoxicity in Cx43-transfected HeLa cells and Cx43-expressing U87 glioma cells. This effect was remarkably inhibited when Cx43 was not expressed or Cx43-formed GJ channels were prohibited. Additionally, the presence of Cx43-mediated GJIC could decrease the mean RTV and tumor weights of xenografts after Photofrin-PDT. The improved PDT efficacy by Cx43-composed GJIC was correlated with stress signaling pathways mediated by ROS, calcium and lipid peroxide. The present study demonstrates the presence of Cx43-composed GJIC improves PDT phototoxicity and suggests that therapeutic strategies designed to upregulate the expression of Cx43 or enhance Cx43-mediated GJIC function may increase the sensitivity of malignant cell to PDT, leading to the increment of PDT efficacy. Oppositely, factors that retard Cx43 expression or prohibit the function of Cx43-mediated GJIC may cause insensitivity of malignant cells to PDT, leading to PDT resistance.


Connexin 43; gap junctional intercellular communication; photodynamic therapy

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: We declare that all the authors listed do not have any competing financial interests.

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