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

Expression of gap junction proteins connexin 26 and connexin 43 in normal human breast and in breast tumours.

Gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) has been proposed as a cellular mechanism for tumour suppression and there is experimental evidence in support of this. If aberrant GJIC contributes to the formation of human breast tumours, one might expect that the connexins (gap junction proteins) expressed by epithelial cells in normal human breast would be down-regulated in tumour epithelial cells, or that tumour cells might show aberrant expression of other connexin family members. This study examines the immunocytochemical expression of connexins 26 (Cx26) and 43 ( Cx43) in normal human breast, 11 benign breast lesions, two special-type carcinomas, and 27 invasive carcinomas of no special histological type ( NST). Cx26 generally was not expressed at detectable level in normal human breast, but punctate Cx43 immunostaining of the myoepithelial cells was found. Cx43 staining of the myoepithelium was also a feature of the benign lesions and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In general, the epithelial cells of benign lesions failed to stain for either connexin. Similarly, a lobular carcinoma did not express Cx26 or Cx43, but there was punctate Cx43 in the epithelial cells of a mucoid carcinoma. Cx26 was up-regulated in the carcinoma cells of 15 of the 27 invasive NST carcinomas, although the staining was usually cytoplasmic and heterogeneous. Cx43 was expressed by stromal cells, possibly myofibroblasts, in all NST carcinomas. Furthermore, there was heterogeneous Cx43 expression in the carcinoma cells of 14 of the 27 NST carcinomas and the staining was often intercellular and punctate, characteristic of functional connexins. Up-regulated of Cx26 and/or Cx43 in the carcinoma cells of over two-thirds of invasive lesions of NST is not necessarily inconsistent with a tumour suppressor role for GJIC. However, the role of gap junctions in the formation and progression of solid human tumours is likely to be more complex than indicated from experimental systems.[1]


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