Cancer incidence rises with age, thus, it seems that advancing age is one of the most important risk factors for malignancy. Several factors have been implicated, like DNA alterations. However, there is little experimental evidence to establish the link between aging and carcinogenesis. Gap junctions have important roles in the maintenance of tissue homeostasis and the control of cell growth and differentiation. Connexins are subunits of gap junction channels, which allow intercellular exchange of small molecules, such as ions, second messengers, and cellular metabolites between contacting cells. In the liver, connexin 32 (Cx32) is a major gap junction protein. We previously demonstrated that transgenic rats carrying a dominant negative mutant of Cx32 (Cx32ΔTg) have much decreased capacity for gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC), and increased susceptibility to diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced hepatocarcinogenesis as compared to littermate wild-type (wt) rats. In order to evaluate the age-dependent susceptibility to DEN-induced hepatocarcinogenesis, male Cx32ΔTg and wt rats at 10, 30 or 85 week-old (wk-old) were given a single intraperitoneal administration of DEN (40 mg/rat) and sacrificed 12 weeks later. The number and area of glutathione S-transferase placental form (GST-P)-positive preneoplastic foci were significantly increased in the liver of 10 and 30 wk-old Cx32ΔTg rats compared with age-matched wt. However, in the 85 wk-old rats, both Cx32ΔTg and wt rats had similarly large number and area of GST-P-positive foci, and the difference was not significant. In accordance with these results, the lack of a difference at 85 weeks may be supposed to the initial lower levels of Cx32 and GJIC function in older wt rats. To confirm this hypothesis, we examined alteration of GJIC function with age in the livers of wt type rats at 10, 40, 70 and 100 wk-old. Interestingly, function of hepatic GJIC was gradually reduced, and protein and mRNA expression of Cx32 were also decreased with aging in wt rats. In summary, the present study shows that GJIC function is decreased with aging in rats, and it may cause promotion of hepatocarcinogenesis in older rats. In addition, Cx32ΔTg may be a good model to study roles of gap junctions in aged liver.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 103rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2012 Mar 31-Apr 4; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2012;72(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 4980. doi:1538-7445.AM2012-4980