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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Increase of gap junction activities in SW480 human colorectal cancer cells

Kristina Bigelow and Thu A Nguyen*

Author Affiliations

Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Kansas State University, 1800 Denison Ave., Manhattan, KS 66506, USA

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:502  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-502

Published: 9 July 2014



Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States with an early detection rate of only 39%. Colorectal cancer cells along with other cancer cells exhibit many deficiencies in cell-to-cell communication, particularly gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC). GJIC has been reported to diminish as cancer cells progress. Gap junctions are intercellular channels composed of connexin proteins, which mediate the direct passage of small molecules from one cell to the next. They are involved in the regulation of the cell cycle, cell differentiation, and cell signaling. Since the regulation of gap junctions is lost in colorectal cancer cells, the goal of this study is to determine the effect of GJIC restoration in colorectal cancer cells.


Gap Junction Activity Assay and protein analysis were performed to evaluate the effects of overexpression of connexin 43 (Cx43) and treatment of PQ1, a small molecule, on GJIC.


Overexpression of Cx43 in SW480 colorectal cancer cells causes a 6-fold increase of gap junction activity compared to control. This suggests that overexpressing Cx43 can restore GJIC. Furthermore, small molecule like PQ1 directly targeting gap junction channel was used to increase GJIC. Gap junction enhancers, PQ1, at 200 nM showed a 4-fold increase of gap junction activity in SW480 cells. A shift from the P0 to the P2 isoform of Cx43 was seen after 1 hour treatment with 200 nM PQ1.


Overexpression of Cx43 and treatment of PQ1 can directly increase gap junction activity. The findings provide an important implication in which restoration of gap junction activity can be targeted for drug development.

Gap junction intercellular communication; PQ1; Kinase activity