Send to

Choose Destination
Cancers (Basel). 2019 Sep 14;11(9). pii: E1370. doi: 10.3390/cancers11091370.

Direct Intercellular Communications and Cancer: A Snapshot of the Biological Roles of Connexins in Prostate Cancer.

Author information

Departmento de Fisiología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago 8331150, Chile.
STIM Laboratory, Université de Poitiers, 86073 Poitiers, France.
Instituto de Neurociencias, Centro interdisciplinario de Neurociencias, Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaiso 2340000, Chile.
Departmento de Fisiología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago 8331150, Chile.
Centro de Biología Celular y Biomedicina (CEBICEM), Universidad San Sebastián, Santiago 7510157, Chile.
Department of Urology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.


Tissue homeostasis is the result of a complex intercellular network controlling the behavior of every cell for the survival of the whole organism. In mammalian tissues, cells do communicate via diverse long- and short-range communication mechanisms. While long-range communication involves hormones through blood circulation and neural transmission, short-range communication mechanisms include either paracrine diffusible factors or direct interactions (e.g., gap junctions, intercellular bridges and tunneling nanotubes) or a mixture of both (e.g., exosomes). Tumor growth represents an alteration of tissue homeostasis and could be the consequence of intercellular network disruption. In this network, direct short-range intercellular communication seems to be particularly involved. The first type of these intercellular communications thought to be involved in cancer progression were gap junctions and their protein subunits, the connexins. From these studies came the general assumption that global decreased connexin expression is correlated to tumor progression and increased cell proliferation. However, this assumption appeared more complicated by the fact that connexins may act also as pro-tumorigenic. Then, the concept that direct intercellular communication could be involved in cancer has been expanded to include new forms of intercellular communication such as tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) and exosomes. TNTs are intercellular bridges that allow free exchange of small molecules or even mitochondria depending on the presence of gap junctions. The majority of current research shows that such exchanges promote cancer progression by increasing resistance to hypoxia and chemotherapy. If exosomes are also involved in these mechanisms, more studies are needed to understand their precise role. Prostate cancer (PCa) represents a type of malignancy with one of the highest incidence rates worldwide. The precise role of these types of direct short-range intercellular communication has been considered in the progression of PCa. However, even though data are in favor of connexins playing a key role in PCa progression, a clear understanding of the role of TNTs and exosomes is needed to define their precise role in this malignancy. This review article summarizes the current view of the main mechanisms involved in short-range intercellular communication and their implications in cancer and delves into the biological, predictive and therapeutic role of connexins in PCa.


cancer; connexins; intercellular communication; prostate cancer

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center