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ABSTRACT

Nonhealing cutaneous wounds, a major cause of morbidity and mortality, are difficult to treat. Recent studies suggest that significant increases in skin wound-healing rates occur by altering gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC). As migration of keratinocytes and fibroblasts is an important feature of wound healing, this study investigated whether migration rates in cultured normal human epidermal keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts could be altered by modulating GJIC via connexin mimetic peptides. First, HeLa cells stably transfected with connexin43 (Cx43), Cx40, or Cx26 were used as a model to determine connexin specificity and the doses of connexin mimetic peptides required to attenuate GJIC. Gap26 and Gap26M inhibited GJIC dose dependently and were nonconnexin specific, whereas Gap27 was Cx43-selective. Skin keratinocytes and fibroblasts expressed a variety of connexins, with Cx43 predominating. Cx43 protein expression was reduced at leading edges 3 hours after scraping confluent monolayers, resolving at 24 hours. Gap26M and Gap27 significantly increased migration rates across scrapes in keratinocytes and fibroblasts by blocking gap junction functionality. GJIC inhibition can thus directly influence keratinocyte and fibroblast migration. Furthermore, our results support the therapeutic potential of connexin mimetic peptides to aid wound closure, and provide a simple approach to screening new agents.