The development and function of the mammary gland require precise control of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC). Here, we review the expression and function of gap junction proteins, connexins, in the normal mouse and human mammary gland. We then discuss the possible tumor-suppressive role of Cx26 and Cx43 in primary breast tumors and through the various stages of breast cancer metastasis and consider whether connexins or GJIC may actually promote tumorigenesis at some stages. Finally, we present in vitro data on the impact of connexin expression on breast cancer cell metastasis to the bone. We observed that Cx43 expression inhibited the invasive and migratory potentials of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells in a bone microenvironment, provided by the MC3T3-E1 mouse osteoblastic cell line. Expression of either Cx26 or Cx43 had no effect on MDA-MB-231 growth and adhesion under the influence of osteoblasts and did not result in regulation of osteogenic gene expression in these breast cancer cells. Furthermore, connexin-expressing MDA-MB-231 cells did not have an effect on the growth or differentiation of MC3T3-E1 cells. In summary, we conclude that connexin expression and GJIC are integral to the development and differentiation of the mammary gland. In breast cancer, connexins generally act as tumor suppressors in the primary tumor; however, in advanced breast tumors, connexins appear to act as both context-dependent tumor suppressors and facilitators of disease progression.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 28, 2007
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