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Contribution of gap junctional communication between tumor cells and astroglia to the invasion of the brain parenchyma by human glioblastomas

Roxane Oliveira1, Christo Christov1, Jean Sébastien Guillamo1, Sophie de Boüard1, Stéphane Palfi12, Laurent Venance3, Marcienne Tardy1 and Marc Peschanski1*

Author Affiliations

1 INSERM/UPVM 421, Plasticité cellulaire et thérapeutique, Faculté de Médecine, 94010 Créteil cedex France

2 Service de neurochirurgie, CHU Henri Mondor, 94010 Créteil cedex France

3 INSERM U 114, NeuroBiologie, Collège de France, Place Marcellin Berthelot, 75005 Paris cedex France

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BMC Cell Biology 2005, 6:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-6-7

Published: 16 February 2005



Gliomas are "intraparenchymally metastatic" tumors, invading the brain in a non-destructive way that suggests cooperation between glioma cells and their environment. Recent studies using an engineered rodent C6 tumor cell line have pointed to mechanisms of invasion that involved gap junctional communication (GJC), with connexin 43 as a substrate. We explored whether this concept may have clinical relevance by analyzing the participation of GJC in human glioblastoma invasion.


Three complementary in vitro assays were used: (i) seeding on collagen IV, to analyze homocellular interactions between tumor cells (ii) co-cultures with astrocytes, to study glioblastoma/astrocytes relationships and (iii) implantation into organotypic brain slice cultures, that mimic the three-dimensional parenchymal environment. Carbenoxolone, a potent blocker of GJC, inhibited cell migration in the two latter models. It paradoxically increased it in the first one. These results showed that homocellular interaction between tumor cells supports intercellular adhesion, whereas heterocellular glioblastoma/astrocytes interactions through functional GJC conversely support tumor cell migration. As demonstrated for the rodent cell line, connexin 43 may be responsible for this heterocellular functional coupling. Its levels of expression, high in astrocytes, correlated positively with invasiveness in biopsied tumors.


our results underscore the potential clinical relevance of the concept put forward by other authors based on experiments with a rodent cell line, that glioblastoma cells use astrocytes as a substrate for their migration by subverting communication through connexin 43-dependent gap junctions.