In the adult rat hepatocyte, the gap junction proteins consist of a major component, connexin32 (Cx32) and a minor component, connexin26 (Cx26). Although we recently reported our success in inducing and maintaining Cx32 in adult rat hepatocytes cultured in serum-free L-15 medium supplemented with epidermal growth factor and 2% dimethyl sulfoxide, it was very difficult to induce Cx26 in the primary hepatocytes. In the present study, we found that the addition of 10(−7) M glucagon into the culture medium could dramatically induce Cx26 mRNA and protein. Although the expression of Cx32 mRNA was also influenced by glucagon, the increase of the expression was small. Immunocytochemically, Cx26-positive spots were observed between most adjacent cells and were co-localized with the Cx32-positive spots. We also examined whether 0.5 mM dibutyl cyclic AMP could induce expression of Cx26 in the cells. The effect of dexamethasone on the expression of Cx26 mRNA compared to that of Cx32 mRNA was examined. For the induction and maintenance of Cx26 mRNA, more than 10(−7) M dexamethasone was necessary in this culture. These results suggest that expression of Cx26 in hepatocytes may be regulated by the concentrations of glucagon and glucocorticoid hormones.

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