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J Biol Chem. 1998 Apr 10;273(15):9188-96.

Regulation of connexin-43 gap junctional intercellular communication by mitogen-activated protein kinase.

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  • 1Molecular Carcinogenesis Section, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, USA.


Activation of the Ras/Raf/mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase/mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase signaling cascade is initiated by activation of growth factor receptors and regulates many cellular events, including cell cycle control. Our previous studies suggested that the connexin-43 gap junction protein may be a target of activated MAP kinase and that MAP kinase may regulate connexin-43 function. We identified the sites of MAP kinase phosphorylation in in vitro studies as the consensus MAP kinase recognition sites in the cytoplasmic carboxyl tail of connexin-43, Ser255, Ser279, and Ser282. In this study, we demonstrate that activation of MAP kinase by ligand-induced activation of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) or lysophosphatidic acid receptors or by pervanadate-induced inhibition of tyrosine phosphatases results in increased phosphorylation on connexin-43. EGF and lysophosphatidic acid-induced phosphorylation on connexin-43 and the down-regulation of gap junctional communication in EGF-treated cells were blocked by a specific mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase inhibitor (PD98059) that prevented activation of MAP kinase. These studies confirm that connexin-43 is a MAP kinase substrate in vivo and that phosphorylation on Ser255, Ser279, and/or Ser282 initiates the down-regulation of gap junctional communication. Studies with connexin-43 mutants suggest that MAP kinase phosphorylation at one or more of the tandem Ser279/Ser282 sites is sufficient to disrupt gap junctional intercellular communication.

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