Inhibition of gap junctional intercellular communication by noncoplanar polychlorinated biphenyls: Inhibitory potencies and screening for potential mode(s) of action
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a structurally diverse group of environmental pollutants, are effective promoters in two-stage cancer models, which implies that epigenetic mechanisms are involved. Inhibition of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) belongs among critical epigenetic events of tumor promotion. We determined the relative potencies of a series of environmentally relevant PCB congeners to inhibit GJIC in vitro in a rat liver epithelial cell line with pluripotent oval cell characteristics. The nonplanar PCBs were potent inhibitors of GJIC, whereas the coplanar PCBs did not inhibit GJIC. We then compared the effects of the coplanar PCB 126 (3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl) and the noncoplanar PCB 153 (2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl) with effects of two model GJIC inhibitors, a tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) and epidermal growth factor (EGF). In contrast to TPA or EGF, PCB 153 elicited a long-term downregulation of GJIC (up to 48 h). Using Western blot analysis with phospho-specific antibodies, it was found that PCB 153, and not PCB 126, activated mitogen-activated protein kinases ERK1/2; however in contrast to TPA and EGF, this activation was observed at the time points subsequent to GJIC inhibition. Moreover, blocking of ERK1/2 activation did not prevent the GJIC inhibition induced by PCB 153. Therefore, additional intracellular signaling pathways potentially involved in the downregulation of GJIC by PCBs were screened by using specific chemical probes inhibiting serine/threonine kinases, tyrosine kinases, and phospholipases. The inhibition of diacylglycerol lipase partially blocked and the selective inhibition of Src kinases and phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC) completely blocked the inhibitory effects of the noncoplanar PCB on GJIC, indicating that PC-PLC or sphingomyelinase and Src might be upstream regulators of noncoplanar PCB-induced inhibition of GJIC.