After a 70% partial hepatectomy (PH), the steady-state levels of Connexin (Cx)32, Cx26, and Cx43 messenger RNA (mRNA) transcripts each displayed unique patterns of temporal expression. Within 1 hour after surgical resection, increased expression of all three Cx mRNAs was observed. Subsequently, the level of Cx32 mRNA transcripts transiently decreased to a nadir at 12 hours. Comparisons of the spatial changes with previously reported hepatocyte proliferation kinetics induced by PH demonstrated that hepatocytes before S-phase "remodel" their GJs. Within 1 to 5 hours post-PH, midzonal hepatocytes exhibited diffuse membrane staining different from the normal punctate distribution. Subsequently, midzonal hepatocytes expressed colocalized punctate Cx32 and Cx26 immunostaining. Because the changes occurred in midzonal hepatocytes before 24 hours post-PH, near the peak of hepatocyte DNA synthesis, these findings indicate that Cx26 is enhanced in hepatocytes before the onset of S-phase. In contrast to the restricted expression of Cx43 in Glisson's capsule in adult liver, Cx43 protein and mRNA were enhanced specifically in proliferating bile duct and perisinusoidal cells post-PH. PH performed during continuous administration of 2-acetylaminofluorene (AAF) prevented changes in Cx32 and Cx26 staining observed in the absence of AAF. Proliferating oval cells were found to express diffuse Cx43 immunoreactivity. On day 11 post-PH and AAF, basophilic hepatocytes displayed both punctate Cx32 and Cx26 staining, whereas bile ducts and perisinusoidal cells expressed Cx43. These findings indicate that alterations in Cx32 and Cx26 expression occur rapidly in hepatocytes stimulated to proliferate and that several nonparenchymal liver cell types upregulate Cx43 expression when induced to proliferate. Differentiation of oval cells into basophilic hepatocytes resulted in their expression of Cx32 and Cx26.
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