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Keywords:

  • Connexin 43;
  • Glioma stem cells;
  • E-Cadherin;
  • Gap junctional intercellular communication;
  • Invasiveness;
  • Tumorigenicity

Abstract

Malfunctioned gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) has been thought associated with malignant transformation of normal cells. However, the role of GJIC-related proteins such as connexins in sustaining the malignant behavior of cancer stem cells remains unclear. In this study, we obtained tumorspheres formed by glioma stem cells (GSCs) and adherent GSCs and then examined their GJIC. All GSCs showed reduced GJIC, and differentiated glioma cells had more gap junction-like structures than GSCs. GSCs expressed very low level of connexins, Cx43 in particular, which are key components of gap junction. We observed hypermethylation in the promoter of gap junction protein α1, which encodes Cx43 in GSCs. Reconstitution of Cx43 in GSCs inhibited their capacity of self-renewal, invasiveness, and tumorigenicity via influencing E-cadherin and its coding protein, which leads to changes in the expression of Wnt/β-catenin targeting genes. Our results suggest that GSCs require the low expression of Cx43 for maintaining their malignant phenotype, and upregulation of Cx43 might be a potential strategy for treatment of malignant glioma. STEM CELLS 2012; 30:108-120.