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Extracellular Matrix Modulates Expression of Connexin Messenger RNA and Protein by Alveolar Epithelial Cells*

Yihe Guo, PhD; Andrea I. Alford, PhD; Cara Martinez-Williams; D. Eugene Rannels, PhD
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*From the Departments of Cellular and Molecular Physiology (Drs. Guo and Alford, and Ms. Martinez-Williams), and Anesthesia (Dr. Rannels); The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine; Hershey, PA.

Correspondence to: D. Eugene Rannels, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine H166, 500 University Dr, Hershey, PA 17033; e-mail: grannels@psu.edu



Chest. 2001;120(1_suppl):S17-S19. doi:10.1378/chest.120.1_suppl.S17
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Cell-to-cell communication through gap junction channels plays an important role in both the physiologic and pathophysiologic function of many tissues and cell types.1 Data from several laboratories have documented expression and function of gap junction proteins, connexins (Cx), in alveolar epithelial cells, both in vivo and in vitro.5 Nevertheless, little is known concerning the biology of gap junctions in the alveolar region of the lung. Type II alveolar epithelial cells express at least six Cxs in primary culture. Among these, Cx26 and Cx43 appear to be regulated in a reciprocal manner, at both the messenger RNA (mRNA) and the protein levels, as a function of culture time.4 Cx26 mRNA expression declines 40% between the day of type II cell isolation (day 0) and day 1 of primary culture. Cx26 message then remains relatively stable through day 6, as the cells progressively acquire characteristics similar to those of type I epithelial cells. Cx26 protein falls to 20% of the day 0 value by day 1 and decreases further thereafter. Conversely, expression of Cx43 mRNA increases significantly between day 0 and day 3, in concert with a rapid increase in Cx43 protein. The present studies begin to examine whether differential regulation of these Cxs may reflect the biological consequences of type II cell interactions with specific components of the extracellular matrix (ECM).,6

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