F10 and BL6 sublines of B16 mouse melanoma cells are metastatic after intravenous injection, but only BL6 cells are metastatic after subcutaneous injection. We found that connexin (Cx) 26 is upregulated in BL6 cells. To examine gap junction formation, we devised a coculture system, in which an opened vein segment was placed at the bottom of a culture dish and then dye-labeled melanoma cells were seeded onto it. Immunohistochemistry indicated that the vein segment preserved the integrity of the endothelial monolayer. In this system, BL6 cells could transfer dye into endothelial cells but F10 cells could not. Transfection with wild-type Cx26 rendered F10 cells competent for coupling with endothelial cells and as spontaneously metastatic as BL6 cells. Conversely, transfection with a dominant-negative form of Cx26 rendered BL6 cells deficient in coupling and less metastatic. In human melanoma lesions, the level of Cx26 expression was low in melanoma cells residing in the basal layer, but significantly upregulated in melanoma cells invading the dermis. The results suggested that Cx26 plays a role in intravasation and extravasation of tumor cells through heterologous gap junction formation with endothelial cells.
Akihiko Ito, Fumitaka Katoh, Tatsuki R. Kataoka, Morihito Okada, Noriaki Tsubota, Hideo Asada, Kunihiko Yoshikawa, Sakan Maeda, Yukihiko Kitamura, Hiroshi Yamasaki, Hiroshi Nojima