AIMS: Gap junction coupling is known to play a role in intercellular communication by the Good Samaritan effect or bystander effect. Nonjunctional connexins (Cxs) may also play certain gap junction-independent roles in cell death or survival. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the role of junctional and nonjunctional Cxs in ototoxic drug-induced auditory cell death by focusing on Cx43 in the cochlea. RESULTS: Nonjunctional Cx43 conditions were prepared by low confluence culture (5 x 10(3)/cm(2)) or a trafficking inhibitor, brefeldin A (BFA), in auditory cells, and short lengthened Cx43s with amino-terminal (NT: amino acids 1-256) or carboxy-terminal (CT: amino acids 257-382) were transfected into Cx-deficient HeLa cells to avoid gap junction formation. Knockdown of nonchannel Cx43 (small interfering RNA [siRNA]) inhibited Cis-diamminedichloroplatinum (cisplatin)-induced cell death regardless of gap junction formation: however, a gap junction blocker, 18 alpha-glycyrrhetinic acid (18alpha-GA), showed inhibitory effect only under the junctional condition. BFA did not show any additive influence on the inhibitory effect of siRNA Cx43. Shortened Cx43-transfected HeLa cells also resulted in a significant increase in cell death under cisplatin. In the animal studies with cisplatin-treated rats, hearing thresholds of auditory brainstem response were significantly preserved by a gap junction blocker, carbenoxolone, showing much more preserved stereocilia of hair cells in scanning electron microscopic findings. Innovation and Conclusion: Cx43 plays a proapoptotic role in cisplatin-induced auditory cell death in both junctional and nonjunctional conditions. Targeting the Cx-mediated signaling control may be helpful in designing new therapeutic strategies for drug-induced ototoxicity. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 25, 623-636.
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