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1.  Amyloid-β protofibril levels correlate with spatial learning in Arctic Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice 
The FEBS journal  2009;276(4):995-1006.
Oligomeric assemblies of Amyloid-β (Aβ) are suggested to be central in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, since levels of soluble Aβ much better correlate with the extent of cognitive dysfunctions than senile plaque counts do. Moreover, such Aβ species have been shown to be neurotoxic, to interfere with learned behavior and to inhibit maintenance of hippocampal long term potentiation. The tg-ArcSwe model, transgenic mice with the Arctic and Swedish Alzheimer mutations, expresses elevated levels of Aβ protofibrils in the brain, making tg-ArcSwe a highly suitable model to investigate the pathogenic role of these Aβ assemblies. In the present study, we estimated Aβ protofibril levels in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid of tg-ArcSwe mice, and also assessed their role with respect to cognitive functions. Protofibril levels, specifically measured with a sandwich ELISA, were found to be elevated in young tg-ArcSwe mice, as compared to several transgenic models lacking the Arctic mutation. In aged tg-ArcSwe mice with considerable plaque deposition, Aβ protofibrils were approximately 50 percent higher than in younger mice, whereas levels of total Aβ were exponentially increased. Young tg-ArcSwe mice showed deficits in spatial learning and individual performance in Morris water maze correlated inversely with levels of Aβ protofibrils, but not with total Aβ levels. We conclude that Aβ protofibrils accumulate in an age-dependent manner in tg-ArcSwe mice, although to a far less extent than total Aβ. Our findings suggest that increased levels of Aβ protofibrils could result in spatial learning impairment.
PMCID: PMC2752010  PMID: 19215301
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β protofibrils; Arctic mutation; transgenic mice; spatial learning
2.  The CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) δ is differently regulated by fibrillar and oligomeric forms of the Alzheimer amyloid-β peptide 
The transcription factors CCAAT/enhancer binding proteins (C/EBP) α, β and δ have been shown to be expressed in brain and to be involved in regulation of inflammatory genes in concert with nuclear factor κB (NF-κB). In general, C/EBPα is down-regulated, whereas both C/EBPβ and δ are up-regulated in response to inflammatory stimuli. In Alzheimer's disease (AD) one of the hallmarks is chronic neuroinflammation mediated by astrocytes and microglial cells, most likely induced by the formation of amyloid-β (Aβ) deposits. The inflammatory response in AD has been ascribed both beneficial and detrimental roles. It is therefore important to delineate the inflammatory mediators and signaling pathways affected by Aβ deposits with the aim of defining new therapeutic targets.
Here we have investigated the effects of Aβ on expression of C/EBP family members with a focus on C/EBPδ in rat primary astro-microglial cultures and in a transgenic mouse model with high levels of fibrillar Aβ deposits (tg-ArcSwe) by western blot analysis. Effects on DNA binding activity were analyzed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. Cross-talk between C/EBPδ and NF-κB was investigated by analyzing binding to a κB site using a biotin streptavidin-agarose pull-down assay.
We show that exposure to fibril-enriched, but not oligomer-enriched, preparations of Aβ inhibit up-regulation of C/EBPδ expression in interleukin-1β-activated glial cultures. Furthermore, we observed that, in aged transgenic mice, C/EBPα was significantly down-regulated and C/EBPβ was significantly up-regulated. C/EBPδ, on the other hand, was selectively down-regulated in the forebrain, a part of the brain showing high levels of fibrillar Aβ deposits. In contrast, no difference in expression levels of C/EBPδ between wild type and transgenic mice was detected in the relatively spared hindbrain. Finally, we show that interleukin-1β-induced C/EBPδ DNA binding activity to both C/EBP and κB sites is abolished after exposure to Aβ.
These data suggest that both expression and function of C/EBPδ are dysregulated in Alzheimer's disease. C/EBPδ seems to be differently regulated in response to different conformations of Aβ. We propose that Aβ induces an imbalance between NF-κB and C/EBP transcription factors that may result in abnormal responses to inflammatory stimuli.
PMCID: PMC3096570  PMID: 21492414
3.  The genetic basis for inactivation of Wnt pathway in human osteosarcoma 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:450.
Osteosarcoma is a highly genetically unstable tumor with poor prognosis. We performed microarray-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq), and pathway analysis to gain a systemic view of the pathway alterations of osteosarcoma.
aCGH experiments were carried out on 10 fresh osteosarcoma samples. The output data (Gene Expression Omnibus Series accession number GSE19180) were pooled with published aCGH raw data (GSE9654) to determine recurrent copy number changes. These were analyzed using Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis to identify altered pathways in osteosarcoma. Transcriptome sequencing of six osteosarcomas was performed to detect the expression profile of Wnt signaling pathway genes. Protein expression of WNT1, β-catenin, c-myc, and cyclin D1 in the Wnt pathway was detected by immunohistochemistry (IHC) in an independent group of 46 osteosarcoma samples.
KEGG pathway analysis identified frequent deletions of Wnt and other Wnt signaling pathway genes. At the mRNA level, transcriptome sequencing found reduced levels of mRNA expression of Wnt signaling pathway transcripts. While WNT1 protein expression was detected by IHC in 69.6% (32/46) of the osteosarcomas, no β-catenin protein was detected in the nucleus. β-catenin protein expression was, however, detected in the membrane and cytoplasm of 69.6% (32/46) of the osteosarcomas. c-myc protein expression was detected in only 47.8% (22/46) and cyclin D1 protein expression in 52.2% (24/46) of osteosarcoma samples. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed that WNT1-negative patients had a trend towards longer disease free survival than WNT1-positive patients. Interestingly, in WNT1-negative patients, those who were also cyclin D1-negative had significantly longer disease free survival than cyclin D1-positive patients. However, there was no significant association between any of the investigated proteins and overall survival of human osteosarcoma patients.
Frequent deletions of Wnt and other Wnt signaling pathway genes suggest that the Wnt signaling pathway is genetically inactivated in human osteosarcoma.
PMCID: PMC4074405  PMID: 24942472
Osteosarcoma; Wnt signal pathway; Genetic aberration; Microarray-based comparative genomic hybridization
4.  M2 Macrophages Activate WNT Signaling Pathway in Epithelial Cells: Relevance in Ulcerative Colitis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78128.
Macrophages, which exhibit great plasticity, are important components of the inflamed tissue and constitute an essential element of regenerative responses. Epithelial Wnt signalling is involved in mechanisms of proliferation and differentiation and expression of Wnt ligands by macrophages has been reported. We aim to determine whether the macrophage phenotype determines the expression of Wnt ligands, the influence of the macrophage phenotype in epithelial activation of Wnt signalling and the relevance of this pathway in ulcerative colitis. Human monocyte-derived macrophages and U937-derived macrophages were polarized towards M1 or M2 phenotypes and the expression of Wnt1 and Wnt3a was analyzed by qPCR. The effects of macrophages and the role of Wnt1 were analyzed on the expression of β-catenin, Tcf-4, c-Myc and markers of cell differentiation in a co-culture system with Caco-2 cells. Immunohistochemical staining of CD68, CD206, CD86, Wnt1, β-catenin and c-Myc were evaluated in the damaged and non-damaged mucosa of patients with UC. We also determined the mRNA expression of Lgr5 and c-Myc by qPCR and protein levels of β-catenin by western blot. Results show that M2, and no M1, activated the Wnt signaling pathway in co-culture epithelial cells through Wnt1 which impaired enterocyte differentiation. A significant increase in the number of CD206+ macrophages was observed in the damaged mucosa of chronic vs newly diagnosed patients. CD206 immunostaining co-localized with Wnt1 in the mucosa and these cells were associated with activation of canonical Wnt signalling pathway in epithelial cells and diminution of alkaline phosphatase activity. Our results show that M2 macrophages, and not M1, activate Wnt signalling pathways and decrease enterocyte differentiation in co-cultured epithelial cells. In the mucosa of UC patients, M2 macrophages increase with chronicity and are associated with activation of epithelial Wnt signalling and diminution in enterocyte differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3805515  PMID: 24167598
5.  Elevated mRNA-Levels of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone and Its Receptor in Plaque-Bearing Alzheimer's Disease Transgenic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103607.
Research on Alzheimer's disease (AD) has indicated an association between hormones of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axis and cognitive senescence, indicating that post meno-/andropausal changes in HPG axis hormones are implicated in the neuropathology of AD. Studies of transgenic mice with AD pathologies have led to improved understanding of the pathophysiological processes underlying AD. The aims of this study were to explore whether mRNA-levels of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gnrh) and its receptor (Gnrhr) were changed in plaque-bearing Alzheimer's disease transgenic mice and to investigate whether these levels and amyloid plaque deposition were downregulated by treatment with a gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog (Gnrh-a; Leuprorelin acetate). The study was performed on mice carrying the Arctic and Swedish amyloid-β precursor protein (AβPP) mutations (tgArcSwe). At 12 months of age, female tgArcSwe mice showed a twofold higher level of Gnrh mRNA and more than 1.5 higher level of Gnrhr mRNA than age matched controls. Male tgArcSwe mice showed the same pattern of changes, albeit more pronounced. In both sexes, Gnrh-a treatment caused significant down-regulation of Gnrh and Gnrhr mRNA expression. Immunohistochemistry combined with quantitative image analysis revealed no significant changes in the plaque load after Gnrh-a treatment in hippocampus and thalamus. However, plaque load in the cerebral cortex of treated females tended to be lower than in female vehicle-treated mice. The present study points to the involvement of hormonal changes in AD mice models and demonstrates that these changes can be effectively counteracted by pharmacological treatment. Although known to increase in normal aging, our study shows that Gnrh/Gnrhr mRNA expression increases much more dramatically in tgArcSwe mice. Treatment with Leuprorelin acetate successfully abolished the transgene specific effects on Gnrh/Gnrhr mRNA expression. The present experimental approach should serve as a platform for further studies on the usefulness of Gnrh-a treatment in suppressing plaque development in AD.
PMCID: PMC4121068  PMID: 25089901
6.  Clusterin expression can be modulated by changes in TCF1-mediated Wnt signaling 
Clusterin (CLU) is an enigmatic molecule associated with various physiological processes and disease states. Different modes of cellular stress lead to increased CLU levels, and additionally numerous growth factors and cytokines affect the expression of the CLU gene. APC and c-MYC, both intimately linked to the Wnt signaling pathway have previously been shown to influence CLU levels, and we therefore investigated if changes in Wnt signaling activity in vitro could regulate the expression of one, or more, of several CLU mRNA and protein variants.
Over-expression of the cytoplasmic domain of E-cadherin tagged with GFP was used to abrogate Wnt signaling activity in LS174T and HCT116 colon carcinoma cells. This fusion construct sequestered signaling competent β-catenin whereby Wnt signaling was abrogated, and consequently cytoplasmic CLU protein levels increased as demonstrated by immunofluorescence. To determine which branch of the Wnt pathway was mediating the CLU response, we over-expressed dominant negative (dn) TCF1 and TCF4 transcription factors in stably transfected LS174T cells. We observed both intra- and extracellular levels of CLU protein to be induced by dnTCF1 but not dnTCF4. Subsequent analysis of the expression levels of three CLU mRNA variants by real time RT-PCR revealed only one CLU mRNA variant to be responsive to dnTCF1 over-expression. 5'-end RACE indicated that this CLU mRNA variant was shorter at the 5'-end than previously reported, and accordingly the translated protein was predicted to be shorter at the N-terminus and destined to the secretory pathway which fit our observations. Examination of the immediate expression kinetics of CLU after dnTCF1 over-expression using real time RT-PCR indicated that CLU might be a secondary Wnt target.
In conclusion, we have demonstrated that the Wnt signaling pathway specifically regulates one out of three CLU mRNA variants via TCF1. This CLU transcript is shorter at the 5' end than reported by the RefSeq database, and produces the intracellular 60 kDa CLU protein isoform which is secreted as a ~80 kDa protein after post-translational processing.
PMCID: PMC1976611  PMID: 17634137
7.  Tumor-specific usage of alternative transcription start sites in colorectal cancer identified by genome-wide exon array analysis 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:505.
Approximately half of all human genes use alternative transcription start sites (TSSs) to control mRNA levels and broaden the transcriptional output in healthy tissues. Aberrant expression patterns promoting carcinogenesis, however, may arise from alternative promoter usage.
By profiling 108 colorectal samples using exon arrays, we identified nine genes (TCF12, OSBPL1A, TRAK1, ANK3, CHEK1, UGP2, LMO7, ACSL5, and SCIN) showing tumor-specific alternative TSS usage in both adenoma and cancer samples relative to normal mucosa. Analysis of independent exon array data sets corroborated these findings. Additionally, we confirmed the observed patterns for selected mRNAs using quantitative real-time reverse-transcription PCR. Interestingly, for some of the genes, the tumor-specific TSS usage was not restricted to colorectal cancer. A comprehensive survey of the nine genes in lung, bladder, liver, prostate, gastric, and brain cancer revealed significantly altered mRNA isoform ratios for CHEK1, OSBPL1A, and TCF12 in a subset of these cancer types.
To identify the mechanism responsible for the shift in alternative TSS usage, we antagonized the Wnt-signaling pathway in DLD1 and Ls174T colorectal cancer cell lines, which remarkably led to a shift in the preferred TSS for both OSBPL1A and TRAK1. This indicated a regulatory role of the Wnt pathway in selecting TSS, possibly also involving TP53 and SOX9, as their transcription binding sites were enriched in the promoters of the tumor preferred isoforms together with their mRNA levels being increased in tumor samples.
Finally, to evaluate the prognostic impact of the altered TSS usage, immunohistochemistry was used to show deregulation of the total protein levels of both TCF12 and OSBPL1A, corresponding to the mRNA levels observed. Furthermore, the level of nuclear TCF12 had a significant correlation to progression free survival in a cohort of 248 stage II colorectal cancer samples.
Alternative TSS usage in colorectal adenoma and cancer samples has been shown for nine genes, and OSBPL1A and TRAK1 were found to be regulated in vitro by Wnt signaling. TCF12 protein expression was upregulated in cancer samples and correlated with progression free survival.
PMCID: PMC3208247  PMID: 21999571
8.  Carriers of a novel frame-shift insertion in WNT16a possess elevated pancreatic expression of TCF7L2 
BMC Genetics  2013;14:28.
The discovery of TCF7L2 as a global type 2 diabetes (T2D) gene has sparked investigations to explore the clinical utility of its variants for guiding the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. However, interpreting the resulting associations into function still remains unclear. Canonical Wnt signaling regulates β-catenin and its binding with TCF7L2, which in turn is critical for the production of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This study examines the role of a novel frame-shift insertion discovered in a conserved region of WNT16a, and it is proposed that this mutation affects T2D susceptibility in conjunction with gene variants in TCF7L2.
Our results predicted that the insertion would convert the upstream open reading frame in the Wnt16a mRNA to an alternative, in-frame translation initiation site, resulting in the prevention of nonsense-mediated decay, leading to a consequent stabilization of the mutated WNT16a message. To examine the role of Wnt16a in the Wnt signaling pathway, DNA and serum samples from 2,034 individuals (48% with T2D) from the Sikh Diabetes Study were used in this investigation. Prevalence of Wnt16a insertion did not differ among T2D cases (33%) and controls (32%). However, there was a 3.2 fold increase in Wnt16a mRNA levels in pancreatic tissues from the insertion carriers and a significant increase (70%, p < 0.0001) in luciferase activity in the constructs carrying the insertion. The expression of TCF7L2 mRNA in pancreas was also elevated (~23-fold) among the insertion carriers (p=0.003).
Our results suggest synergistic effects of WNT16a insertion and the at-risk ‘T’ allele of TCF7L2 (rs7903146) for elevating the expression of TCF7L2 in human pancreas which may affect the regulation of downstream target genes involved in the development of T2D through Wnt/β-catenin/TCF7L2 signaling pathway. However, further studies would be needed to mechanistically link the two definitively.
PMCID: PMC3675375  PMID: 23617586
β-cat /TCF7L2 signaling; Wnt16a; Exome sequencing; Insertion polymorphism; TCF7L2 gene variants; Gene expression; Pancreatic β-cells; Type 2 diabetes
9.  Beta-Catenin Signaling Plays a Disparate Role in Different Phases of Fracture Repair: Implications for Therapy to Improve Bone Healing 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(7):e249.
Delayed fracture healing causes substantial disability and usually requires additional surgical treatments. Pharmacologic management to improve fracture repair would substantially improve patient outcome. The signaling pathways regulating bone healing are beginning to be unraveled, and they provide clues into pharmacologic management. The β-catenin signaling pathway, which activates T cell factor (TCF)-dependent transcription, has emerged as a key regulator in embryonic skeletogenesis, positively regulating osteoblasts. However, its role in bone repair is unknown. The goal of this study was to explore the role of β-catenin signaling in bone repair.
Methods and Findings
Western blot analysis showed significant up-regulation of β-catenin during the bone healing process. Using a β-Gal activity assay to observe activation during healing of tibia fractures in a transgenic mouse model expressing a TCF reporter, we found that β-catenin-mediated, TCF-dependent transcription was activated in both bone and cartilage formation during fracture repair. Using reverse transcription-PCR, we observed that several WNT ligands were expressed during fracture repair. Treatment with DKK1 (an antagonist of WNT/β-catenin pathway) inhibited β-catenin signaling and the healing process, suggesting that WNT ligands regulate β-catenin. Healing was significantly repressed in mice conditionally expressing either null or stabilized β-catenin alleles induced by an adenovirus expressing Cre recombinase. Fracture repair was also inhibited in mice expressing osteoblast-specific β-catenin null alleles. In stark contrast, there was dramatically enhanced bone healing in mice expressing an activated form of β-catenin, whose expression was restricted to osteoblasts. Treating mice with lithium activated β-catenin in the healing fracture, but healing was enhanced only when treatment was started subsequent to the fracture.
These results demonstrate that β-catenin functions differently at different stages of fracture repair. In early stages, precise regulation of β-catenin is required for pluripotent mesenchymal cells to differentiate to either osteoblasts or chondrocytes. Once these undifferentiated cells have become committed to the osteoblast lineage, β-catenin positively regulates osteoblasts. This is a different function for β-catenin than has previously been reported during development. Activation of β-catenin by lithium treatment has potential to improve fracture healing, but only when utilized in later phases of repair, after mesenchymal cells have become committed to the osteoblast lineage.
In a study in mice Benjamin Alman and colleagues show that β-catenin functions differently in different stages of fracture repair; moreover, activation of β-catenin by lithium improves fracture healing when used in later phases of repair.
Editors' Summary
Most people break at least one bone during their life. If the damaged bone is immobilized with a plaster cast or with metal plates and pins, most fractures heal naturally and quickly. Soon after a bone is damaged, cells called pluripotent mesenchymal cells collect at the injury site. Here, they multiply and change (differentiate) into osteoblasts (cells that make bone) and chondrocytes (cells that make cartilage, the dense connective tissue that covers joints). Osteoblasts and chondrocytes mend the fracture by making new bone, a process called ossification. Bone healing involves two types of ossification. In intramembranous ossification, mesenchymal cells and osteoblast progenitor cells make bone directly, forming a hard “callus” within the fracture. In endochondral ossification, mesenchymal cells differentiate into chondrocytes and make cartilage at the fracture site, which osteoblasts turn into bone. Finally, the bone made by both types of ossification is remodeled so that it closely resembles the damaged bone's original shape and strength.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, fractures do not always heal efficiently. If healing is delayed, additional surgery may be needed to repair the break. But surgery can be risky, so drug-based ways of encouraging bone repair would be very useful. To develop such treatments, researchers need to understand what controls the differentiation and activity of osteoblasts and chondrocytes during normal healing. In this study, the researchers have investigated the role of the β-catenin signaling pathway in bone repair. This pathway regulates bone formation during embryonic development, a process that closely resembles bone healing. β-catenin is usually degraded rapidly in cells. However, if a member of a particular family of proteins known as the WNT family binds to a WNT receptor on the surface of a cell, β-catenin moves into the cell's nucleus where it interacts with a protein called T cell factor (TCF). This interaction activates the transcription (the copying of DNA into messenger RNA, which is used to make proteins) of numerous genes and alters the behavior of the cell.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first measured β-catenin levels in mouse and human bones. In both species, much more β-catenin was made in bones undergoing repair than in intact bones. Then they studied TCF reporter mice—animals in which TCF controls the expression of a marker gene. β-catenin-mediated TCF-dependent transcription, they report, was activated during both bone and cartilage formation after a fracture in these mice. Next, the researchers made mice that could be induced to express an inactive form of β-catenin or a stabilized (permanently active) form of β-catenin in all the cells in a bone fracture. Expression of inactive β-catenin slowed the rate of healing but, unexpectedly, so did expression of stabilized β-catenin. Osteoblast-specific expression of inactive β-catenin also delayed bone healing, whereas osteoblast-specific expression of stabilized β-catenin enhanced the process. Finally, treatment of wild-type mice with lithium (which prevents the degradation of β-catenin) enhanced bone healing if given after a fracture, but interfered with it if given before.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that β-catenin signaling (which, the researchers show, is mainly activated by WNT signaling) has different effects at different stages of bone repair. Early in the process, it controls the ratio of osteoblasts and chondrocytes made from the pluripotent mesenchymal cells. Consequently, too much or too little β-catenin interferes with bone healing at this stage. Later on, β-catenin promotes the differentiation of osteoblasts and enhances their ability to make bone, and so too little β-catenin at this stage prevents healing, whereas increased β-catenin levels stimulate healing. These findings need to be confirmed in people before testing agents that affect β-catenin signaling for their effects on human bone healing. Nevertheless, the researchers' final discovery that lithium improves bone healing if given at the right time is particularly encouraging; lithium is widely used to treat one form of depression so could be readily tested in clinical trials.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains pages on broken bones and on bone fracture repair (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has pages on bone fracture and on bone healing (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK National Health Service Direct encyclopedia provides pages on broken bones
Animations of intramembranous and endochondral ossification are available from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology, Province of British Columbia, Canada
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has an informative discussion of fractures
The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (where the authors of this study are affiliated) has a Web site called SickKids, which contains a page on child physiology, including diagrams of bone development
PMCID: PMC1950214  PMID: 17676991
10.  Wnt Genes in the Mouse Uterus: Potential Regulation of Implantation1 
Biology of Reproduction  2009;80(5):989-1000.
Wnt genes are involved in critical developmental and growth processes. The present study comprehensively analyzed temporal and spatial alterations in Wnt and Fzd gene expression in the mouse uterus during peri-implantation of pregnancy. Expression of Wnt4, Wnt5a, Wnt7a, Wnt7b, Wnt11, Wnt16, Fzd2, Fzd4, and Fzd6 was detected in the uterus during implantation. Wnt4 mRNA was most abundant in the decidua, whereas Wnt5a mRNA was restricted to the mesometrial decidua during decidualization. Wnt7a, Wnt7b, and Wnt11 mRNAs were abundantly detected in the endometrial epithelia. The expression of Wnt7b was robust in the luminal epithelium (LE) at the implantation site on Gestational Day 5, whereas Wnt11 mRNA disappeared in the LE adjacent to the embryo in the antimesometrial implantation chamber but remained abundant in the LE. Wnt16 mRNA was localized to the stroma surrounding the LE on Day 4 and remained in the stroma adjacent to the LE but not in areas undergoing the decidual reaction. Fzd2 mRNA was detected in the decidua, Fzd4 mRNA was in the vessels and stroma surrounding the embryo, and Fzd6 mRNA was observed in the endometrial epithelia, stroma, and some blood vessels during implantation. Ovarian steroid hormone treatment was found to regulate Wnt genes and Fzd receptors in ovariectomized mice. Especially, single injections of progesterone stimulated Wnt11 mRNA, and estrogen stimulated Wnt4 and Wnt7b. The temporal and spatial alterations in Wnt genes likely play a critical role during implantation and decidualization in mice.
The temporal and spatial alterations in Wnt genes play a critical role during implantation and decidualization in mice.
PMCID: PMC2804842  PMID: 19164167
implantation; mouse; pregnancy; uterus; WNT
11.  Heterotrimeric G protein-dependent WNT-5A signaling to ERK1/2 mediates distinct aspects of microglia proinflammatory transformation 
WNT-5A signaling in the central nervous system is important for morphogenesis, neurogenesis and establishment of functional connectivity; the source of WNT-5A and its importance for cellular communication in the adult brain, however, are mainly unknown. We have previously investigated the inflammatory effects of WNT/β-catenin signaling in microglia in Alzheimer's disease. WNT-5A, however, generally recruits β-catenin-independent signaling. Thus, we aim here to characterize the role of WNT-5A and downstream signaling pathways for the inflammatory transformation of the brain's macrophages, the microglia.
Mouse brain sections were used for immunohistochemistry. Primary isolated microglia and astrocytes were employed to characterize the WNT-induced inflammatory transformation and underlying intracellular signaling pathways by immunoblotting, quantitative mRNA analysis, proliferation and invasion assays. Further, measurements of G protein activation by [γ-35 S]GTP binding, examination of calcium fluxes and cyclic AMP production were used to define intracellular signaling pathways.
Astrocytes in the adult mouse brain express high levels of WNT-5A, which could serve as a novel astroglia-microglia communication pathway. The WNT-5A-induced proinflammatory microglia response is characterized by increased expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase, cyclooxygenase-2, cytokines, chemokines, enhanced invasive capacity and proliferation. Mapping of intracellular transduction pathways reveals that WNT-5A activates heterotrimeric Gi/o proteins to reduce cyclic AMP levels and to activate a Gi/o protein/phospholipase C/calcium-dependent protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) axis. We show further that WNT-5A-induced ERK1/2 signaling is responsible for distinct aspects of the proinflammatory transformation, such as matrix metalloprotease 9/13 expression, invasion and proliferation.
Thus, WNT-5A-induced and G protein-dependent signaling to ERK1/2 is important for the regulation of proinflammatory responses in mouse primary microglia cells. We show for the first time that WNT-5A/G protein signaling mediates physiologically important processes in primary mammalian cells with natural receptor and G protein stochiometry. Consequently, WNT-5A emerges as an important means of astrocyte-microglia communication and we, therefore, suggest WNT-5A as a new player in neuroinflammatory conditions, such as neurodegenerative disease, hypoxia, stroke, injury and infection.
PMCID: PMC3458933  PMID: 22647544
Frizzled; Heterotrimeric G proteins; MAPK; Non-canonical WNT signaling; Cyclic AMP; Microglia; Neuroinflammation
12.  Characterization of Wnt Signaling during Photoreceptor Degeneration 
The Wnt pathway is an essential signaling cascade that regulates multiple processes in developing and adult tissues, including differentiation, cellular survival, and stem cell proliferation. The authors recently demonstrated altered expression of Wnt pathway genes during photoreceptor death in rd1 mice, suggesting an involvement for Wnt signaling in the disease process. In this study, the authors investigated the role of Wnt signaling in retinal degeneration.
The Wnt signaling reporter mouse line Tcf-LacZ was crossed with retinal degeneration rd1 mice, and β-galactosidase expression was used to localize Wnt signaling during photoreceptor death. To analyze the role of Wnt signaling activation, primary mixed retinal cultures were prepared, and XTT and TUNEL assays were used to quantify cell death. Luciferase reporter assays were used to measure Wnt signaling.
The canonical Wnt signaling pathway was activated in Müller glia and the ganglion cell layer during rod photoreceptor degeneration in rd1/Tcf-LacZ mice. Wnt signaling was confirmed in cultured primary Müller glia. Furthermore, Wnt signaling activators protected photoreceptors in primary retinal cultures from H2O2-induced oxidative stress. The Wnt ligands Wnt5a, Wnt5b, Wnt10a, and Wnt13 were expressed in the degenerating retina and are candidate Wnt signaling activators in vivo.
This study is the first demonstration that Wnt signaling is activated in the degenerating retina and that it protects retinal cultures from oxidative stress. These data suggest that Wnt signaling is a component of the glial protective response during photoreceptor injury. Therefore, inducing Wnt activation, alone or in combination with growth factors, may increase the threshold for apoptosis and halt or delay further photoreceptor degeneration.
PMCID: PMC2330018  PMID: 18055826
13.  Wnt Expression in the Adult Rat Subventricular Zone After Stroke 
Neuroscience letters  2007;418(2):170-174.
In the adult brain, neurogenesis occurs in the subventricular zone (SVZ) of the lateral ventricle. During development, the Wnt pathways contribute to stem cell maintenance and promote neurogenesis. We hypothesized that the Wnt family genes are expressed in neural progenitor cells of the non-ischemic and ischemic SVZ of the adult rodent brain after middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion.
Non-ischemic and ischemic cultured SVZ cells and a single population of non-ischemic and ischemic SVZ cells isolated by laser capture microdisection (LCM) were analyzed for Wnt pathway expression using real-time RT-PCR and immunostaining.
The number of neurospheres increased significantly (p<0.05) in SVZ cells derived from ischemic (32 ±4.7/rat) compared with the number in non-ischemic SVZ cells (18 ± 3/rat). Wnt family gene mRNA levels were detected in SVZ cells isolated from both cultured and LCM SVZ cells, however there was no upregulation between non-ischemic and ischemic SVZ cells. Immunostaining on brain sections also demonstrated no upregulation of Wnt pathway protein between ischemic and non-ischemic SVZ cells.
Expression of the Wnt family genes in SVZ cells suggests that the Wnt pathway may be involved in neurogenesis in the adult brain. However, ischemia does not upregulate Wnt family gene expression.
PMCID: PMC1994944  PMID: 17400378
Wnt pathway; Stroke; SVZ; Laser Capture Microdisection
14.  A knock-in mouse model reveals roles for nuclear Apc in cell proliferation, Wnt signal inhibition and tumor suppression 
Oncogene  2011;31(19):2423-2437.
Mutation of the tumor suppressor adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) is considered an initiating step in the genesis of the vast majority of colorectal cancers. APC inhibits the Wnt signaling pathway by targeting proto-oncogene β-catenin for destruction by cytoplasmic proteasomes. In the presence of a Wnt signal, or in the absence of functional APC, β-catenin can serve as a transcription co-factor for genes required for cell proliferation such as cyclin D1 and c-Myc. In cultured cells, APC shuttles between the nucleus and cytoplasm, with nuclear APC implicated in inhibition of Wnt target gene expression. Taking a genetic approach to evaluate the functions of nuclear APC in the context of a whole organism, we generated a mouse model with mutations that inactivate the nuclear localization signals of Apc (ApcmNLS). ApcmNLS/mNLS mice are viable and fractionation of embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) isolated from these mice revealed a significant reduction in nuclear Apc compared to Apc+/+ MEFs. The levels of Apc and β-catenin protein were not significantly altered in small intestinal epithelia from ApcmNLS/mNLS mice. Compared to Apc+/+ mice, ApcmNLS/mNLS mice displayed increased proliferation in epithelial cells from the jejunum, ileum, and colon. These same tissues from ApcmNLS/mNLS mice displayed more mRNA from three genes up-regulated in response to canonical Wnt signal, c-Myc, Axin2, and Cyclin D1, and less mRNA from Hath 1 which is down-regulated in response to Wnt. These observations suggest a role for nuclear Apc in inhibition of canonical Wnt signaling and control of epithelial proliferation in intestinal tissue. Furthermore, we found ApcMin/+ mice, which harbor a mutation that truncates Apc, have increased polyp size and multiplicity if they also carry the ApcmNLS allele. Taken together, this analysis of the novel ApcmNLS mouse model supports a role for nuclear Apc in control of Wnt target genes, intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and polyp formation.
PMCID: PMC3265630  PMID: 21996741
15.  A deep investigation into the adipogenesis mechanism: Profile of microRNAs regulating adipogenesis by modulating the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:320.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a large class of tiny non-coding RNAs (~22-24 nt) that regulate diverse biological processes at the posttranscriptional level by controlling mRNA stability or translation. As a molecular switch, the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway should be suppressed during the adipogenesis; However, activation of this pathway leads to the inhibition of lipid depots formation. The aim of our studies was to identify miRNAs that might be involved in adipogenesis by modulating WNT signaling pathway. Here we established two types of cell model, activation and repression of WNT signaling, and investigated the expression profile of microRNAs using microarray assay.
The high throughput microarray data revealed 18 miRNAs that might promote adipogenesis by repressing WNT signaling: miR-210, miR-148a, miR-194, miR-322 etc. Meanwhile, we also identified 29 miRNAs that might have negative effect on adipogenesis by activating WNT signaling: miR-344, miR-27 and miR-181 etc. The targets of these miRNAs were also analysed by bioinformatics. To validate the predicted targets and the potential functions of these identified miRNAs, the mimics of miR-210 were transfected into 3T3-L1 cells and enlarged cells with distinct lipid droplets were observed; Meanwhile, transfection with the inhibitor of miR-210 could markedly decrease differentiation-specific factors at the transcription level, which suggested the specific role of miR-210 in promoting adipogenesis. Tcf7l2, the predicted target of miR-210, is a transcription factor triggering the downstream responsive genes of WNT signaling, was blocked at transcription level. Furthermore, the activity of luciferase reporter bearing Tcf7l2 mRNA 3' UTR was decreased after co-transfection with miR-210 in HEK-293FT cells. Last but not least, the protein expression level of β-catenin was increased in the lithium (LiCl) treated 3T3-L1 cells after transfection with miR-210. These findings suggested that miR-210 could promote adipogenesis by repressing WNT signaling through targeting Tcf7l2.
The results suggest the presence of miRNAs in two cell models, providing insights into WNT pathway-specific miRNAs that can be further characterized for their potential roles in adipogenesis. To our knowledge, present study represents the first attempt to unveil the profile of miRNAs involed in adipogenesis by modulating WNT signaling pathway, which contributed to deeper investigation of the mechanism of adipogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2895628  PMID: 20492721
16.  Wnt/β-catenin pathway regulates Bmp2-mediated differentiation of dental follicle cells 
Journal of periodontal research  2011;47(3):10.1111/j.1600-0765.2011.01433.x.
Background and Objectives
Bmp2-induced osteogenic differentiation has been shown to occur through the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway, whereas factors promoting canonical Wnt signaling in cementoblasts inhibited cell differentiation and promoted cell proliferation in vitro. The aim of this study was to investigate whether putative precursor cells of cementoblasts, dental follicle cells (murine SVF4 cells), when stimulated with Bmp2, would exhibit changes in genes/proteins associated with the Wnt/β-catenin pathway.
Materials and Methods
SVF4 cells were stimulated with Bmp2, and the following assays were carried out: 1) Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation assessed by western blot, β-catenin/TCF reporter assay, and gene expression of lymphoid enhancer-binding factor-1 (Lef1), transcription factor 7 (Tcf7), Wnt inhibitor factor 1 (Wif1) and Axin2, and 2) cementoblast/osteoblast differentiation assessed by mineralization in vitro, and mRNA levels of runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), osterix (Osx), alkaline phosphatase (Alp), osteocalcin (Ocn) and bone sialoprotein (Bsp) by qPCR after Wnt3a treatment and knockdown of β-catenin.
Wnt3a induced β-catenin nuclear translocation and upregulated the transcriptional activity of a canonical Wnt-responsive reporter, suggesting the Wnt/β-catenin pathway functions in SVF4 cells. Activation of Wnt signaling with Wnt3a suppressed Bmp2-mediated induction of cementoblast/osteoblast maturation of SVF4 cells. However, β-catenin knockdown showed that Bmp2-induced expression of cementoblast/osteoblast differentiation markers requires endogenous β-catenin. Wnt3a down-regulated transcripts for Runx2, Alp and Ocn in SVF4 cells compared to untreated cells. In contrast, Bmp2 induction of Bsp transcripts occurred independent of Wnt/β-catenin signaling.
These data suggest that stabilization of β-catenin by Wnt-3a treatment inhibits Bmp2-mediated induction of cementoblast/osteoblast differentiation in SVF4 cells, although Bmp2 requires endogenous Wnt/β-catenin signaling to promote cell maturation.
PMCID: PMC3865600  PMID: 22150562
dental follicle cells; Wnt; cementoblast; maturation; BMP
17.  The mechanisms of genome-wide target gene regulation by TCF7L2 in liver cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(22):13646-13661.
In the liver Wnt-signaling contributes to the metabolic fate of hepatocytes, but the precise role of the TCF7L2 in this process is unknown. We employed a temporal RNA-Seq approach to examine gene expression 3–96 h following Tcf7l2 silencing in rat hepatoma cells, and combined this with ChIP-Seq to investigate mechanisms of target gene regulation by TCF7L2. Silencing Tcf7l2 led to a time-dependent appearance of 406 differentially expressed genes (DEGs), including key regulators of cellular growth and differentiation, and amino acid, lipid and glucose metabolism. Direct regulation of 149 DEGs was suggested by strong proximal TCF7L2 binding (peak proximity score > 10) and early mRNA expression changes (≤18 h). Indirect gene regulation by TCF7L2 likely occurred via alternate transcription factors, including Hnf4a, Foxo1, Cited2, Myc and Lef1, which were differentially expressed following Tcf7l2 knock-down. Tcf7l2-silencing enhanced the expression and chromatin occupancy of HNF4α, and co-siRNA experiments revealed that HNF4α was required for the regulation of a subset of metabolic genes by TCF7L2, particularly those involved in lipid and amino-acid metabolism. Our findings suggest TCF7L2 is an important regulator of the hepatic phenotype, and highlight novel mechanisms of gene regulation by TCF7L2 that involve interplay between multiple hepatic transcriptional pathways.
PMCID: PMC4267646  PMID: 25414334
18.  Selective Modulation of Wnt Ligands and Their Receptors in Adipose Tissue by Chronic Hyperadiponectinemia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67712.
Adiponectin-transgenic mice had many small adipocytes in both subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissues, and showed higher sensitivity to insulin, longer life span, and reduced chronic inflammation. We hypothesized that adiponectin regulates Wnt signaling in adipocytes and thereby modulates adipocyte proliferation and chronic inflammation in adipose tissue.
Materials and Methods
We examined the expression of all Wnt ligands and their receptors and the activity of Wnt signaling pathways in visceral adipose tissue from wild-type mice and two lines of adiponectin-transgenic mice. The effects of adiponectin were also investigated in cultured 3T3-L1 cells.
The Wnt5b, Wnt6, Frizzled 6 (Fzd6), and Fzd9 genes were up-regulated in both lines of transgenic mice, whereas Wnt1, Wnt2, Wnt5a, Wnt9b, Wnt10b, Wnt11, Fzd1, Fzd2, Fzd4, Fzd7, and the Fzd coreceptor low-density-lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6 (Lrp6) were reduced. There was no difference in total β-catenin levels in whole-cell extracts, non-phospho-β-catenin levels in nuclear extracts, or mRNA levels of β-catenin target genes, indicating that hyperadiponectinemia did not affect canonical Wnt signaling. In contrast, phosphorylated calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II (p-CaMKII) and phosphorylated Jun N-terminal kinase (p-JNK) were markedly reduced in adipose tissue from the transgenic mice. The adipose tissue of the transgenic mice consisted of many small cells and had increased expression of adiponectin, whereas cyclooxygenase-2 expression was reduced. Wnt5b expression was elevated in preadipocytes of the transgenic mice and decreased in diet-induced obese mice, suggesting a role in adipocyte differentiation. Some Wnt genes, Fzd genes, and p-CaMKII protein were down-regulated in 3T3-L1 cells cultured with a high concentration of adiponectin.
Chronic hyperadiponectinemia selectively modulated the expression of Wnt ligands, Fzd receptors and LRP coreceptors accompanied by the inhibition of the Wnt/Ca2+ and JNK signaling pathways, which may be involved in the altered adipocyte cellularity, endogenous adiponectin production, and anti-inflammatory action induced by hyperadiponectinemia.
PMCID: PMC3701684  PMID: 23861788
19.  Soluble Frizzled-7 receptor inhibits Wnt signaling and sensitizes hepatocellular carcinoma cells towards doxorubicin 
Molecular Cancer  2011;10:16.
There are limited therapeutic options for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common liver malignancy worldwide. Recent studies have identified the Frizzled-7 receptor (FZD7), important for activation of Wnt-mediated signaling, as a potential therapeutic target for HCC and other cancers.
We hypothesized that the extracellular domain of FZD7 (sFZD7) would be a clinically more relevant therapeutic modality than previously studied approaches to target FZD7. We expressed and purified sFZD7 from E. coli, and tested its functional activity to interact with Wnt3, its ability to inhibit Wnt3-mediated signaling, and its potential for combinatorial therapy in HCC.
sFZD7 pulled down Wnt3 from Huh7 cells, and decreased β-catenin/Tcf4 transcriptional activity in HCC cells. In vitro, sFZD7 dose-dependently decreased viability of three HCC cell lines (HepG2, Hep40, and Huh7, all with high FZD7 and Wnt3 mRNA), but had little effect on normal hepatocytes from three donors (all with low level FZD7 and Wnt3 mRNA). When combined with doxorubicin, sFZD7 enhanced the growth inhibitory effects of doxorubicin against HCC cells in vitro, and against Huh7 xenografts in vivo. Reduced expressions of c-Myc, cyclin D1, and survivin were observed in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, sFZD7 altered the levels of phosphorylated AKT and ERK1/2 induced by doxorubicin treatment in vitro, suggesting that several critical pathways are involved in the chemosensitizing effect of sFZD7.
We propose that sFZD7 is a feasible therapeutic agent with specific activity, which can potentially be combined with other chemotherapeutic agents for the improved management of HCC.
PMCID: PMC3050858  PMID: 21314951
20.  Substance P Activates the Wnt Signal Transduction Pathway and Enhances the Differentiation of Mouse Preosteoblastic MC3T3-E1 Cells 
Recent experiments have explored the impact of Wnt/β-catenin signaling and Substance P (SP) on the regulation of osteogenesis. However, the molecular regulatory mechanisms of SP on the formation of osteoblasts is still unknown. In this study, we investigated the impact of SP on the differentiation of MC3T3-E1 cells. The osteogenic effect of SP was observed at different SP concentrations (ranging from 10−10 to 10−8 M). To unravel the underlying mechanism, the MC3T3-E1 cells were treated with SP after the pretreatment by neurokinin-1 (NK1) antagonists and Dickkopf-1 (DKK1) and gene expression levels of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway components, as well as osteoblast differentiation markers (collagen type I, alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, and Runx2), were measured using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Furthermore, protein levels of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway were detected using Western blotting and the effects of SP, NK1 antagonist, and DKK1 on β-catenin activation were investigated by immunofluorescence staining. Our data indicated that SP (10−9 to 10−8 M) significantly up-regulated the expressions of osteoblastic genes. SP (10−8 M) also elevated the mRNA level of c-myc, cyclin D1, and lymphocyte enhancer factor-1 (Lef1), as well as c-myc and β-catenin protein levels, but decreased the expression of Tcf7 mRNA. Moreover, SP (10−8 M) promoted the transfer of β-catenin into nucleus. The effects of SP treatment were inhibited by the NK1 antagonist and DKK1. These findings suggest that SP may enhance differentiation of MC3T3-E1 cells via regulation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC4013624  PMID: 24733069
substance P; Wnt signal transduction pathway; differentiation; MC3T3-E1 cells
21.  Wnt/β-catenin signaling activates bone morphogenetic protein 2 expression in osteoblasts 
Bone  2012;52(1):145-156.
The BMP and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways cooperatively regulate osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Although BMP signaling regulates gene expression of the Wnt pathway, much less is known about whether Wnt signaling modulates BMP expression in osteoblasts. Given the presence of putative Tcf/Lef response elements that bind β-catenin/TCF transcription complex in the BMP2 promoter, we hypothesized that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway stimulates BMP2 expression in osteogenic cells. In this study, we showed that Wnt/β-catenin signaling is active in various osteoblast or osteoblast precursor cell lines, including MC3T3-E1, 2T3, C2C12, and C3H10T1/2 cells. Furthermore, crosstalk between the BMP and Wnt pathways affected BMP signaling activity, osteoblast differentiation, and bone formation, suggesting Wnt signaling is an upstream regulator of BMP signaling. Activation of Wnt signaling by Wnt3a or overexpression of β-catenin/TCF4 both stimulated BMP2 transcription at promoter and mRNA levels. In contrast, transcription of BMP2 in osteogenic cells was decreased by either blocking the Wnt pathway with DKK1 and sFRP4, or inhibiting β-catenin/TCF4 activity with FWD1/β-TrCP, ICAT, or ΔTCF4. Using a site-directed mutagenesis approach, we confirmed that Wnt/β-catenin transactivation of BMP2 transcription is directly mediated through the Tcf/Lef response elements in the BMP2 promoter. These results, which demonstrate that the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is an upstream activator of BMP2 expression in osteoblasts, provide novel insights into the nature of functional cross talk integrating the BMP and Wnt/β-catenin pathways in osteoblastic differentiation and maintenance of skeletal homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3712130  PMID: 23032104
BMP; Wnt/β-catenin; Gene expression; Osteogenesis
22.  β-Catenin independent cross-control between the estradiol and Wnt pathways in osteoblasts✰ 
Gene  2011;479(1-2):16-28.
Osteoblasts are controlled by the individual and combined effects of systemic and local growth regulators. Here we show functional and physical interactions between estradiol (17βE) and Wnt activated pathways in osteoblasts. 17βE increased gene promoter activity by the Wnt pathway transcriptional effector T cell factor (TCF) in an estrogen receptor (ER) dependent way. This occurred independently of its activity through traditional estrogen response elements and was not replicated by androgen receptor activation. 17βE also increased the stimulatory effect of LiCl on TCF activity, LiCl increased the stimulatory effect of 17βE through estrogen response elements, and both were further enhanced by a noncanonical Wnt receptor agonist (WAg) that functions independently of β-catenin stabilization. In contrast to LiCl, WAg increased DNA synthesis and reduced relative collagen synthesis and alkaline phosphatase activity in otherwise untreated or 17βE stimulated cells. In addition, WAg suppressed Runx2, osterix, and alkaline phosphatase mRNA levels, and potently induced osteoprotegerin mRNA, whereas LiCl was ineffective alone and inhibitory in combination with 17βE. A definitive intersection between the 17βE and Wnt pathways occurred at the protein level, where ERα physically associated with TCF-4 independently of its β-catenin binding domain. This interaction required ligand dependent exposure of a TCF binding region that mapped to ERα domain E and was further enhanced by Wnt pathway activation. Our studies reveal highly focused co-regulatory effects between the 17βE and Wnt pathways in osteoblasts that involve activated ERα and TCF-4, and downstream changes in gene expression, osteoblast proliferation, and differentiated cell function.
PMCID: PMC3094493  PMID: 21335072
17βE; estrogen receptor; TCF-4; Runx2; protein interactions; noncanonical effects
23.  HEF1, a Novel Target of Wnt Signaling, Promotes Colonic Cell Migration and Cancer Progression 
Oncogene  2011;30(23):2633-2643.
Misregulation of the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway and aberrant activation of Wnt signaling target genes are common in colorectal cancer and contribute to cancer progression. Altered expression of HEF1 (Human Enhancer of Filamentation 1, also known as NEDD9 or Cas-L) has been implicated in progression of melanoma, breast, and colorectal cancer. However, the regulation of HEF1 and the role of HEF1 in colorectal cancer tumorigenesis are not fully understood. We here identify HEF1 as a novel Wnt signaling target. The expression of HEF1 was up-regulated by Wnt3a, β-catenin, and Dvl2 in a dose-dependent fashion, and was suppressed following β-catenin down-regulation by shRNA. In addition, elevated HEF1 mRNA and protein levels were observed in colorectal cancer cell lines and primary tumor tissues, as well as in the colon and adenoma polyps of Apcmin/+ mice. Moreover, HEF1 levels in human colorectal tumor tissues increased with the tumor grade. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays and HEF1 promoter analyses revealed three functional TCF-binding sites in the promoter of HEF1 responsible for HEF1 induction by Wnt signaling. Ectopic expression of HEF1 increased cell proliferation and colony formation, while down-regulation of HEF1 in SW480 cells by shRNA had the opposite effects and inhibited the xenograft tumor growth. Furthermore, overexpression of HEF1 in SW480 cells promoted cell migration and invasion. Together, our results determined a novel role of HEF1 as a mediator of the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway for cell proliferation, migration, and tumorigenesis, as well as an important player in colorectal tumorigenesis and progression. HEF1 may represent an attractive candidate for drug targeting in colorectal cancer.
PMCID: PMC3164309  PMID: 21317929
HEF1; Wnt signaling; colorectal cancer; tumorigenesis
24.  The Wnt Signaling Pathway Effector TCF7L2 Controls Gut and Brain Proglucagon Gene Expression and Glucose Homeostasis 
Diabetes  2013;62(3):789-800.
The type 2 diabetes risk gene TCF7L2 is the effector of the Wnt signaling pathway. We found previously that in gut endocrine L-cell lines, TCF7L2 controls transcription of the proglucagon gene (gcg), which encodes the incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Whereas peripheral GLP-1 stimulates insulin secretion, brain GLP-1 controls energy homeostasis through yet-to-be defined mechanisms. We aim to determine the metabolic effect of a functional knockdown of TCF7L2 by generating transgenic mice that express dominant-negative TCF7L2 (TCF7L2DN) specifically in gcg-expressing cells. The gcg-TCF7L2DN transgenic mice showed reduced gcg expression in their gut and brain, but not in pancreas. Defects in glucose homeostasis were observed in these mice, associated with attenuated plasma insulin levels in response to glucose challenge. The defect in glucose disposal was exacerbated with high-fat diet. Brain Wnt activity and feeding-mediated hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) repression in these mice were impaired. Peripheral injection of the cAMP-promoting agent forskolin increased brain β-cat Ser675 phosphorylation and brain gcg expression and restored feeding-mediated hypothalamic AMPK repression. We conclude that TCF7L2 and Wnt signaling control gut and brain gcg expression and glucose homeostasis and speculate that positive cross-talk between Wnt and GLP-1/cAMP signaling is an underlying mechanism for brain GLP-1 in exerting its metabolic functions.
PMCID: PMC3581223  PMID: 22966074
25.  Translocation Products in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Activate the Wnt Signaling Pathway in Hematopoietic Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(7):2890-2904.
The acute myeloid leukemia (AML)-associated translocation products AML1-ETO, PML-retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARα), and PLZF-RARα encode aberrant transcription factors. Several lines of evidence suggest similar pathogenetic mechanisms for these fusion proteins. We used high-density oligonucleotide arrays to identify shared target genes in inducibly transfected U937 cells expressing AML1-ETO, PML-RARα, or PLZF-RARα. All three fusion proteins significantly repressed the expression of 38 genes and induced the expression of 14 genes. Several of the regulated genes were associated with Wnt signaling. One of these, plakoglobin (γ-catenin), was induced on the mRNA and protein level by all three fusion proteins. In addition, primary AML blasts carrying one of the fusion proteins significantly overexpressed plakoglobin. The plakoglobin promoter was cloned and shown to be induced by AML1-ETO, with promoter activation depending on the corepressor and histone deacetylase binding domains. The induction of plakoglobin by AML fusion proteins led to downstream signaling and transactivation of TCF- and LEF-dependent promoters, including the c-myc promoter, which was found to be bound by plakoglobin in vivo after AML1-ETO expression. β-Catenin protein levels and TCF and LEF target genes such as c-myc and cyclin D1 were found to be induced by the fusion proteins. On the functional level, a dominant negative TCF inhibited colony growth of AML1-ETO-positive Kasumi cells, whereas plakoglobin transfection into myeloid 32D cells enhanced proliferation and clonal growth. Injection of plakoglobin-expressing 32D cells into syngeneic mice accelerated the development of leukemia. Transduction of plakoglobin into primitive murine hematopoietic progenitor cells preserved the immature phenotype during colony growth, suggesting enhanced self-renewal. These data provide evidence that activation of Wnt signaling is a common feature of several balanced translocations in AML.
PMCID: PMC371102  PMID: 15024077

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