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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Changes in gap junction organization and decreased coupling during induced apoptosis in lens epithelial and NIH-3T3 cells.

We demonstrate that global induction of apoptosis in primary bovine lens epithelial (LEC) or fibroblastic mouse NIH-3T3 cells by staurosporine, puromycin, cycloheximide, or etoposide is accompanied by a decrease in coupling by gap junctions. Cell coupling as tested by neurobiotin spreading was maintained when the LEC or NIH-3T3 cells were pre-incubated with the pan-caspase inhibitor zVAD or the caspase-3 inhibiting tetrapeptide DEVD. Immunohistochemistry using anti-connexin-43 antibodies showed a reduction of plasma membrane integrated connexin-43 in both cell lines when undergoing apoptosis. Western blotting indicated degradation of connexin-43 that was inhibited by zVAD or DEVD. Cell coupling at single cell level was tested by direct microinjecting into LEC apoptosis-inducing agents of low molecular mass like staurosporine, etoposide and puromycin or the high molecular mass proteins caspase-3 and -8 in activated state. Microinjection of puromycin or etoposide induced apoptotic morphological changes of only the injected cell within 90 or 180 min, but did not affect adjacent cells. In contrast, microinjection of staurosporine led to a rapid induction of apoptosis of the injected and a number of adjacent cells suggesting spreading of staurosporine most probably through gap junction pores held open by dephosphorylation of connexin-43 as verified by immunoblotting and staining using a phospho-serine368-specific anti-connexin-43 antibody. Microinjection of active caspase-8 led after 3 h to morphological apoptotic alterations of only the injected cell, but did not inhibit spreading of co-injected neurobiotin to neighboring cells during the first hour. In contrast, microinjection of active caspase-3-induced apoptosis only of the injected cell after 60 min and rapidly and completely suppressed coupling to neighboring cells.[1]


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