To address the role of gap junction hemichannels in apoptosis, the cell death induced by staurosporine (ST) was evaluated in wild type HeLa cells (HeLa-WT) and transfectants expressing either full-length connexin43 (HeLa-Cx43) or a C-terminal truncation of Cx43 (HeLa-ΔCT). Cell death was measured with fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), both DNA and nuclear fragmentation methods and assays for PARP and caspase 3. The ST-mediated cell death was accelerated in HeLa-Cx43 cells compared to HeLa-WT and HeLa-ΔCT. To determine why HeLa-Cx43 cells were more susceptible to ST, the phosphorylation state and the localization of Cx43 protein within cells were examined using specific Cx43 antibodies. The phosphorylated forms of Cx43 were sharply reduced in HeLa-Cx43 cells treated with ST. Moreover, in ST-treated HeLa-Cx43 cells, Cx43 was mainly observed at the cell surface. In contrast, the truncated form of Cx43 found in HeLa-ΔCT cells, which lacks many of the normal phosphorylation sites, was observed in the cytosol with ST treatment. To examine the hemichannels in the plasma membranes of ST-treated HeLa-Cx43 cells, several dye uptake methods using carboxyfluorescein and propidium iodide were employed. While the number of fluorescent cells did not change in HeLa-WT and HeLa-ΔCT cells with ST treatment, the number of fluorescent HeLa-Cx43 cells increased more than ten-fold. These results indicate that the increases in cell surface Cx43 seen with immunofluorescence and the elevated hemichannel activities detected with dye uptake could help explain the accelerated cell death observed in ST-treated HeLa-Cx43 cells.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by different Korean sources (to KCH) and by the National Institutes of Health (GM-46277 to RGJ). The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of K. Evenson with the last set of dye uptake experiments and constructive discussions with J. D. Sheridan and other gap junction researchers at the Univ. of Minnesota.
- Gap junction