Epithelial, fibroblast and intermediate cell lines were employed to examine the mechanism(s) essential for heterocellular gap junction intercellular communication in vitro. These cell lines were characterized extensively for cell type based on morphology, intermediate cytoskeletal proteins, cell adhesion molecules and their associated proteins, tight junction proteins as well as functional differentiation. All cell types expressed connexin43 and were dye-coupled in homocellular culture. Epithelial and intermediate cells or fibroblasts and intermediate cells readily assembled heterocellular connexin43-positive gap junction plaques when co-cultured, while gap junction plaques in mixed cultures of epithelial cells and fibroblasts were rare. Dye microinjection studies were used to show that there was little gap junction intercellular communication between epithelial cells and fibroblasts. However, intermediate cells were able to communicate with epithelial cells and, to a lesser extent, fibroblasts and could transfer dye to both epithelial cells and fibroblasts when all three cell types were cultured together. Fibroblasts that were stably transfected with a cDNA encoding E-cadherin had a greater tendency to aggregate and exhibited a more epithelial-like phenotype but heterocellular gap junction intercellular communication with epithelial cells, which endogenously express E-cadherin, was not enhanced. These results suggest that mutual expression of E-cadherin is insufficient to stimulate gap junction formation between epithelial cells and fibroblasts. Moreover, our results also demonstrate that communication gaps between epithelial cells and fibroblasts can be bridged by intermediate cells, a process that may be important in mammary gland development, growth, differentiation and cancer.
Deficient epithelial-fibroblast heterocellular gap junction communication can be overcome by co-culture with an intermediate cell type but not by E-cadherin transgene expression
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T.L. Woodward, M.A. Sia, O.W. Blaschuk, J.D. Turner, D.W. Laird; Deficient epithelial-fibroblast heterocellular gap junction communication can be overcome by co-culture with an intermediate cell type but not by E-cadherin transgene expression. J Cell Sci 1 December 1998; 111 (23): 3529–3539. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jcs.111.23.3529
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