HuR regulates gap junctional intercellular communication by controlling β-catenin levels and adherens junction integrity

Authors

  • Niloofar Ale-Agha,

    1. Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung (IUF) an der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Stefanie Galban,

    1. Institut für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
    2. Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Institute on Aging, Intramural Research Program (NIA-IRP), National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Christiane Sobieroy,

    1. Institut für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Kotb Abdelmohsen,

    1. Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Institute on Aging, Intramural Research Program (NIA-IRP), National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Myriam Gorospe,

    1. Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Institute on Aging, Intramural Research Program (NIA-IRP), National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Helmut Sies,

    1. Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung (IUF) an der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
    2. Institut für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Lars-Oliver Klotz

    Corresponding author
    1. Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung (IUF) an der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
    2. Institut für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
    • Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung (IUF) an der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Auf'm Hennekamp 50, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
    • fax: +49-211-3389-331.


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

Abstract

Gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) plays a critical role in the regulation of tissue homeostasis and carcinogenesis and is modulated by the levels, subcellular localization, and posttranslational modification of gap junction proteins, the connexins (Cx). Here, using oval cell-like rat liver epithelial cells, we demonstrate that the RNA-binding protein HuR promotes GJIC through two mechanisms. First, HuR silencing lowered the levels of Cx43 protein and Cx43 messenger RNA (mRNA), and decreased Cx43 mRNA half-life. This regulation was likely due to the direct stabilization of Cx43 mRNA by HuR, because HuR associated directly with Cx43 mRNA, a transcript that bears signature adenylate-uridylate-rich (AU-rich) and uridylate-rich (U-rich) sequences in its 3′-untranslated region. Second, HuR silencing reduced both half-life and the levels of β-catenin mRNA, also a target of HuR; accordingly, HuR silencing lowered the levels of whole-cell and membrane-associated β-catenin. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments showed a direct interaction between β-catenin and Cx43. Small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated depletion of β-catenin recapitulated the effects of decreasing HuR levels: it attenuated GJIC, decreased Cx43 levels, and redistributed Cx43 to the cytoplasm, suggesting that depletion of β-catenin in HuR-silenced cells contributed to lowering Cx43 levels at the membrane. Finally, HuR was demonstrated to support GJIC after exposure to a genotoxic agent, doxorubicin, or an inducer of differentiation processes, retinoic acid, thus pointing to a crucial role of HuR in the cellular response to stress and in physiological processes modulated by GJIC. Conclusion: HuR promotes gap junctional intercellular communication in rat liver epithelial cells through two related regulatory processes, by enhancing the expression of Cx43 and by increasing the expression of β-catenin, which, in turn, interacts with Cx43 and is required for proper positioning of Cx43 at the plasma membrane. (HEPATOLOGY 2009.)

Ancillary