Since their characterization more than five decades ago, gap junctions and their structural proteins—the connexins—have been associated with cancer cell growth. During that period, the accumulation of data and molecular knowledge about this association revealed an apparent contradictory relationship between them and cancer. It appeared that if gap junctions or connexins can down regulate cancer cell growth they can be also implied in the migration, invasion and metastatic dissemination of cancer cells. Interestingly, in all these situations, connexins seem to be involved through various mechanisms in which they can act either as gap-junctional intercellular communication mediators, modulators of signalling pathways through their interactome, or as hemichannels, which mediate autocrine/paracrine communication. This complex involvement of connexins in cancer progression is even more complicated by the fact that their hemichannel function may overlap with other gap junction-related proteins, the pannexins. Despite this complexity, the possible involvements of connexins and pannexins in cancer progression and the elucidation of the mechanisms they control may lead to use them as new targets to control cancer progression. In this review, the involvements of connexins and pannexins in these different topics (cancer cell growth, invasion/metastasis process, possible cancer therapeutic targets) are discussed.
- Growth control
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry