UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Betacellulin regulates gap junction intercellular communication by inducing the phosphorylation of connexin 43 in human granulosa-lutein cells Li, Yuxi; Chang, Hsun-Ming; Sung, Yu-Wen; Zhu, Hua; Leung, P. C. K.; Sun, Ying-Pu


Background: The gap junction protein, connexin 43 (Cx43) is highly expressed in human granulosa-lutein (hGL) cells. The phosphorylation of certain amino acid residues in the Cx43 protein has been shown to be related to a decline in gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC), which subsequently affects oocyte meiotic resumption. As a member of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family, betacellulin (BTC) mediates luteinizing hormone (LH)-induced oocyte maturation and cumulus cell expansion in mammalian follicles. Whether BTC can regulate Cx43 phosphorylation, which further reduces Cx43-coupled GJIC activity in hGL cells remains to be determined. Methods Immortalized human granulosa cells (SVOG cells) and primary human granulosa-lutein cells obtained from women undergoing in vitro fertilization in an academic research center were used as the study models. The expression levels of Cx43 and phosphorylated Cx43 were examined following cell incubation with BTC at different time points. Several kinase inhibitors (sotrastaurin, AG1478, and U0126) and small interfering RNAs targeting EGF receptor (EGFR) and receptor tyrosine-protein kinase 4 (ErbB4) were used to verify the specificity of the effects and to investigate the molecular mechanisms. Real-time-quantitative PCR and western blot analysis were used to detect the specific mRNA and protein levels, respectively. GJIC between SVOG cells were evaluated using a scrape loading and dye transfer assay. Results were analyzed by one-way analysis of variance. Results The results showed that BTC induced the rapid phosphorylation of Cx43 at serine368 without altering the expression of Cx43 in primary and immortalized hGL cells. Additionally, using a dual inhibition approach (kinase inhibitors and siRNA-based expression knockdown), we demonstrated that this effect was mainly mediated by the EGFR but not the ErbB4 receptor. Furthermore, using a protein kinase C (PKC) kinase assay and a scrape-loading and dye transfer assay, we revealed that PKC signaling is the downstream signaling pathway that mediates the increase in Cx43 phosphorylation and subsequent decrease in GJIC activity in response to BTC treatment in hGL cells. Conclusions BTC promptly induced the phosphorylation of connexin 43 at Ser368, leading to decreased GJIC activity in hGL cells. The BTC-induced cellular activities were most likely driven by the EGFR-mediated PKC-dependent signaling pathway. Our findings shed light on the detailed molecular mechanisms by which BTC regulates the process of oocyte meiotic resumption.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)