There is a reduction in the 28-kD gap junction protein detectable by immunofluorescence in livers of partially hepatectomized rats and in cultured hepatocytes stimulated to proliferate. By the coordinate use of antibodies directed to the hepatic junction protein (HJP28) and the use of a monoclonal antibody that recognizes bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporated into DNA, we have been able to study the relationship between detectable gap junction protein and cell division. Hepatocytes that label with BrdU in the regenerating liver and in cell culture show a significant reduction of HJP28. Cells that do not synthesize DNA, on the other hand, show normal levels and distribution of immunoreactive gap junction protein. We postulate that the quantitative changes in gap junction expression might play an important role in the control of proliferation in the liver.

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