FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Connexon-mediated cell adhesion drives microtissue self-assembly.

PMID 20876208


Microtissue self-assembly is thought to be driven primarily by cadherins, while connexons have been examined mainly in intercellular coupling. We investigated whether connexon 43 (Cx43)-mediated cell adhesion modulates self-assembly of human KGN granulosa cells, normal human fibroblasts (NHFs), and MCF-7 breast cancer cells seeded into nonadhesive agarose gels. We found that treatment with anti-Cx43 E2 (112 μg/ml), which suppresses Cx43 docking, significantly inhibited the kinetics of KGN and NHF self-assembly compared to the preimmune sera control (41.1 ± 4.5 and 24.5 ± 10.4% at 8 h, respectively). Likewise, gap junction inhibitor carbenoxolone also inhibited self-assembly of KGN, NHF, and MCF-7 cells in a dose-dependent manner that was specific to cell type. In contrast, Gap26 connexin mimetic peptide, which inhibits channel permeability but not docking, accelerated self-assembly of KGN and NHF microtissues. Experiments using selective enzymatic digestion of cell adhesion molecules and neutralizing N-cadherin antibodies further showed that self-assembly was comparably disrupted by inhibiting connexin- and cadherin-mediated adhesion. These findings demonstrate that connexon-mediated cell adhesion and intercellular communication differentially influence microtissue self-assembly, and that their contributions are comparable to those of cadherins.