Although the health benefits of dietary antioxidants have been extensively studied, their potential negative effects remain unclear. L-Ascorbic acid 6-palmitate (AAP), a synthetic derivative of ascorbic acid (AA), is widely used as an antioxidant and preservative in foods, vitamins, drugs, and cosmetics. Previously, we found that AA exerted an antitumor effect by protecting inhibition of gap-junctional intercellular communication (GJIC), which is closely associated with tumor progression. In this study, we examined whether AAP, an amphipathic derivative of AA, has chemopreventive effects using a GJIC model. AAP and AA exhibited dose-dependent free radical-scavenging activities and inhibited hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2))-induced intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in normal rat liver epithelial cells. Unexpectedly, however, AAP did not protect against the inhibition of GJIC induced by H(2)O(2); instead, it inhibited GJIC synergistically with H(2)O(2). AAP inhibited GJIC in a dose-dependent and reversible manner. This inhibitory effect was not due to the conjugated lipid structure of AAP, as treatment with palmitic acid alone failed to inhibit GJIC under the same conditions. The inhibition of GJIC by AAP was restored in the presence of mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126, but not in the presence of other signal inhibitors and antioxidant (PKC inhibitors, EGFR inhibitor, NADPH oxidase inhibitor, catalase, vitamin E, or AA), indicating the critical involvement of MEK signaling in the GJIC inhibitory activity of AAP. Phosphorylation of ERK and connexin 43 (Cx43) was observed following AAP treatment, and this was reversed by U0126. These results suggest that the AAP-induced inhibition of GJIC is mediated by the phosphorylation of Cx43 via activation of the MEK-ERK pathway. Taken together, our results indicate that AAP has a potent carcinogenic effect, and that the influence of dietary antioxidants on carcinogenesis may be paradoxical.