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Cancers 2019, 11(3), 288; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11030288

Facets of Communication: Gap Junction Ultrastructure and Function in Cancer Stem Cells and Tumor Cells

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Saarland University, 66421 Homburg, Germany
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Received: 5 February 2019 / Revised: 22 February 2019 / Accepted: 25 February 2019 / Published: 1 March 2019
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Abstract

Gap junction proteins are expressed in cancer stem cells and non-stem cancer cells of many tumors. As the morphology and assembly of gap junction channels are crucial for their function in intercellular communication, one focus of our review is to outline the data on gap junction plaque morphology available for cancer cells. Electron microscopic studies and freeze-fracture analyses on gap junction ultrastructure in cancer are summarized. As the presence of gap junctions is relevant in solid tumors, we exemplarily outline their role in glioblastomas and in breast cancer. These were also shown to contain cancer stem cells, which are an essential cause of tumor onset and of tumor transmission into metastases. For these processes, gap junctional communication was shown to be important and thus we summarize, how the expression of gap junction proteins and the resulting communication between cancer stem cells and their surrounding cells contributes to the dissemination of cancer stem cells via blood or lymphatic vessels. Based on their importance for tumors and metastases, future cancer-specific therapies are expected to address gap junction proteins. In turn, gap junctions also seem to contribute to the unattainability of cancer stem cells by certain treatments and might thus contribute to therapeutic resistance. View Full-Text
Keywords: cancer; cancer stem cells; gap junctions; connexins; cell-cell communication; ultrastructure cancer; cancer stem cells; gap junctions; connexins; cell-cell communication; ultrastructure
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Beckmann, A.; Hainz, N.; Tschernig, T.; Meier, C. Facets of Communication: Gap Junction Ultrastructure and Function in Cancer Stem Cells and Tumor Cells. Cancers 2019, 11, 288.

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