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We previously showed that one of the amelogenin splicing isoforms, Leucine-rich Amelogenin Peptide (LRAP), induced osteogenic differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells; however, the signaling pathway(s) activated by LRAP remained unknown. Here, we demonstrated that the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling is activated upon LRAP treatment, as evidenced by elevated β-catenin level and increased Wnt reporter gene activity. Furthermore, a specific Wnt inhibitor sFRP-1 completely blocks the LRAP-mediated Wnt signaling. However, exogenous recombinant Wnt3a alone was less effective at osteogenic induction of mouse ES cells in comparison to LRAP. Using a quantitative real-time PCR array, we discovered that LRAP treatment up-regulated the expression of Wnt agonists and down-regulated the expression of Wnt antagonists. We conclude that LRAP activates the canonical Wnt signaling pathway to induce osteogenic differentiation of mouse ES cells through the concerted regulation of Wnt agonists and antagonists.
PMCID: PMC2758297  PMID: 19615979
leucine-rich amelogenin peptide; osteogenesis; Wnt signaling pathway; ES cell; osteogenic differentiation
2.  Contrasting Responses of Lymphoid Progenitors to Canonical and Non-canonical Wnt Signals 
The Wnt family of secreted glycoproteins has been implicated in many aspects of development, but its contribution to blood cell formation is controversial. We over-expressed Wnt3a, Wnt5a and Dkk1 in stromal cells from osteopetrotic mice and used them in co-culture experiments with highly enriched stem and progenitor cells. The objective was to learn if and how particular stages of B lymphopoiesis are responsive to these Wnt family ligands. We found that canonical Wnt signaling, through Wnt3a, inhibited B and pDC but not cDC development. Wnt5a, which can oppose canonical signaling or act through a different pathway, increased B lymphopoiesis. Responsiveness to both Wnt ligands diminished with time in culture and stage of development. That is, only hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and very primitive progenitors were affected. While Wnt3a promoted retention of HSC markers, cell yields and dye dilution experiments indicated it was not a growth stimulus. Other results suggest that lineage instability results from canonical Wnt signaling. Lymphoid progenitors rapidly down-regulated RAG-1 and some acquired stem cell staining characteristics as well as myeloid and erythroid potential when exposed to Wnt3a producing stromal cells. We conclude that at least two Wnt ligands can differentially regulate early events in B lymphopoiesis, affecting entry and progression in distinct differentiation lineages.
PMCID: PMC2562264  PMID: 18768850
3.  The Mechanism of Endogenous Receptor Activation Functionally Distinguishes Prototype Canonical and Noncanonical Wnts 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(9):3475-3482.
Wnt glycoproteins are developmentally essential signaling molecules, and lesions afflicting Wnt pathways play important roles in human diseases. Some Wnts signal to the canonical pathway by stabilizing β-catenin, while others lack this activity. Frizzled serpentine receptors mediate distinct signaling pathways by both classes of Wnts. Here, we tandemly linked noncanonical Wnt5a with the C-terminal half of Dickkopf-2 (Dkk2C), a distinct ligand of the Wnt coreceptor LRP5/6. Whereas Wnt5a, Dkk2C, or both together were incapable of stimulating endogenous canonical signaling, the Wnt5a/Dkk2C chimera efficiently activated this pathway in a manner inhibitable by specific antagonists of either frizzled or LRP receptors. Thus, activation of the canonical pathway requires ligand coupling of an endogenous frizzled/LRP coreceptor complex, rather than Wnt triggering each receptor independently. Moreover, fusion of Wnt5a with Dkk2C unmasked its ability to signal to Dishevelled through multiple frizzleds, indicating that the lack of functional interaction with LRP distinguishes noncanonical Wnt5a from canonical Wnts in mammalian cells. These findings provide a novel mechanism by which the same receptor can be switched between distinct signaling pathways depending on the differential recruitment of a coreceptor by members of the same ligand family.
PMCID: PMC1084300  PMID: 15831454
4.  SFRP2 Stimulates Angiogenesis via a Calcineurin/NFAT Signaling Pathway 
Cancer research  2009;69(11):4621-4628.
Secreted frizzle-related protein 2 (SFRP2), a modulator of Wnt-signaling, has recently been found to be overexpressed in the vasculature of 85% of human breast tumors, however its role in angiogenesis is unknown. We found that SFRP2 induced angiogenesis in the mouse Matrigel plug assay and the chick chorioallantoic membrane assay. SFRP2 inhibited hypoxia induced endothelial cell apoptosis, increased endothelial cell migration, and induced endothelial tube formation. The canonical Wnt-pathway was not affected by SFRP2 in endothelial cells, however, a component of the non-canonical Wnt/Ca++ pathway was affected by SFRP2, as demonstrated by an increase in NFATc3 in the nuclear fraction of SFRP2-treated endothelial cells. Tacrolimus, a calcineurin inhibitor which inhibits dephosphorylation of NFAT, inhibited SFRP2-induced endothelial tube formation. Tacrolimus 3 mg/kg/daily inhibited the growth of SVR angiosarcoma xenografts in mice by 46% (p=0.04). In conclusion, SFRP2 is a novel stimulator of angiogenesis that stimulates angiogenesis via a calcineurin/NFAT pathway, and may be a favorable target for the inhibition of angiogenesis in solid tumors.
PMCID: PMC2699405  PMID: 19458075
Breast cancer; angiosarcoma; tumor endothelial marker; tacrolimus; endothelial cells
5.  Binding of sFRP-3 to EGF in the Extra-Cellular Space Affects Proliferation, Differentiation and Morphogenetic Events Regulated by the Two Molecules 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2471.
sFRP-3 is a soluble antagonist of Wnts, widely expressed in developing embryos. The Wnt gene family comprises cysteine-rich secreted ligands that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, organogenesis and oncogenesis of different organisms ranging from worms to mammals. In the canonical signal transduction pathway Wnt proteins bind to the extracellular domain of Frizzled receptors and consequently recruit Dishevelled (Dsh) to the cell membrane. In addition to Wnt membrane receptors belonging to the Frizzled family, several other molecules have been described which share homology in the CRD domain and lack the putative trans-membrane domain, such as sFRP molecules (soluble Frizzled Related Protein). Among them, sFRP-3 was originally isolated from bovine articular cartilage and also as a component of the Spemann organizer. sFRP-3 blocks Wnt-8 induced axis duplication in Xenopus embryos and binds to the surface of cells expressing a membrane-anchored form of Wnt-1. Injection of sFRP-3 mRNA blocks expression of XMyoD mRNA and leads to embryos with enlarged heads and shortened trunks.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we report that sFRP-3 specifically blocks EGF-induced fibroblast proliferation and foci formation. Over-expression of sFRP-3 reverts EGF-mediated inhibition of hair follicle development in the mouse ectoderm while its ablation in Xenopus maintains EGF-mediated inhibition of ectoderm differentiation. Conversely, over-expression of EGF reverts the inhibition of somitic myogenesis and axis truncation in Xenopus and mouse embryos caused by sFRP-3. In vitro experiments demonstrated a direct binding of EGF to sFRP-3 both on heparin and on the surface of CHO cells where the molecule had been membrane anchored.
sFRP-3 and EGF reciprocally inhibit their effects on cell proliferation, differentiation and morphogenesis and indeed are expressed in contiguous domains of the embryo, suggesting that in addition to their canonical ligands (Wnt and EGF receptor, respectively) these molecules bind to each other and regulate their activities during embryogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2424011  PMID: 18560570
6.  WNT signaling enhances breast cancer cell motility and blockade of the WNT pathway by sFRP1 suppresses MDA-MB-231 xenograft growth 
In breast cancer, deregulation of the WNT signaling pathway occurs by autocrine mechanisms. WNT ligands and Frizzled receptors are coexpressed in primary breast tumors and cancer cell lines. Moreover, many breast tumors show hypermethylation of the secreted Frizzled-related protein 1 (sFRP1) promoter region, causing low expression of this WNT antagonist. We have previously shown that the WNT pathway influences proliferation of breast cancer cell lines via activation of canonical signaling and epidermal growth factor receptor transactivation, and that interference with WNT signaling reduces proliferation. Here we examine the role of WNT signaling in breast tumor cell migration and on xenograft outgrowth.
The breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 was used to study WNT signaling. We examined the effects of activating or blocking the WNT pathway on cell motility by treatment with WNT ligands or by ectopic sFPR1 expression, respectively. The ability of sFRP1-expressing MDA-MB-231 cells to grow as xenografts was also tested. Microarray analyses were carried out to identify targets with roles in MDA-MB-231/sFRP1 tumor growth inhibition.
We show that WNT stimulates the migratory ability of MDA-MB-231 cells. Furthermore, ectopic expression of sFRP1 in MDA-MB-231 cells blocks canonical WNT signaling and decreases their migratory potential. Moreover, the ability of MDA-MB-231/sFRP1-expressing cells to grow as xenografts in mammary glands and to form lung metastases is dramatically impaired. Microarray analyses led to the identification of two genes, CCND1 and CDKN1A, whose expression level is selectively altered in vivo in sFRP1-expressing tumors. The encoded proteins cyclin D1 and p21Cip1 were downregulated and upregulated, respectively, in sFRP1-expressing tumors, suggesting that they are downstream mediators of WNT signaling.
Our results show that the WNT pathway influences multiple biological properties of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. WNT stimulates tumor cell motility; conversely sFRP1-mediated WNT pathway blockade reduces motility. Moreover, ectopic sFRP1 expression in MDA-MB-231 cells has a strong negative impact on tumor outgrowth and blocked lung metastases. These results suggest that interference with WNT signaling using sFRP1 to block the ligand- receptor interaction may be a valid therapeutic approach in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2716500  PMID: 19473496
7.  Transcriptional Silencing of the Wnt-Antagonist DKK1 by Promoter Methylation Is Associated with Enhanced Wnt Signaling in Advanced Multiple Myeloma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30359.
The Wnt/β-catenin pathway plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of various human cancers. In multiple myeloma (MM), aberrant auto-and/or paracrine activation of canonical Wnt signaling promotes proliferation and dissemination, while overexpression of the Wnt inhibitor Dickkopf1 (DKK1) by MM cells contributes to osteolytic bone disease by inhibiting osteoblast differentiation. Since DKK1 itself is a target of TCF/β-catenin mediated transcription, these findings suggest that DKK1 is part of a negative feedback loop in MM and may act as a tumor suppressor. In line with this hypothesis, we show here that DKK1 expression is low or undetectable in a subset of patients with advanced MM as well as in MM cell lines. This absence of DKK1 is correlated with enhanced Wnt pathway activation, evidenced by nuclear accumulation of β-catenin, which in turn can be antagonized by restoring DKK1 expression. Analysis of the DKK1 promoter revealed CpG island methylation in several MM cell lines as well as in MM cells from patients with advanced MM. Moreover, demethylation of the DKK1 promoter restores DKK1 expression, which results in inhibition of β-catenin/TCF-mediated gene transcription in MM lines. Taken together, our data identify aberrant methylation of the DKK1 promoter as a cause of DKK1 silencing in advanced stage MM, which may play an important role in the progression of MM by unleashing Wnt signaling.
PMCID: PMC3281831  PMID: 22363428
8.  Update on Wnt signaling in bone cell biology and bone disease 
Gene  2011;492(1):1-18.
For more than a decade, Wnt signaling pathways have been the focus of intense research activity in bone biology laboratories because of their importance in skeletal development, bone mass maintenance, and therapeutic potential for regenerative medicine. It is evident that even subtle alterations in the intensity, amplitude, location, and duration of Wnt signaling pathways affects skeletal development, as well as bone remodeling, regeneration, and repair during a lifespan. Here we review recent advances and discrepancies in how Wnt/Lrp5 signaling regulates osteoblasts and osteocytes, introduce new players in Wnt signaling pathways that have important roles in bone development, discuss emerging areas such as the role of Wnt signaling in osteoclastogenesis, and summarize progress made in translating basic studies to clinical therapeutics and diagnostics centered around inhibiting Wnt pathway antagonists, such as sclerostin, Dkk1 and Sfrp1. Emphasis is placed on the plethora of genetic studies in mouse models and genome wide association studies that reveal the requirement for and crucial roles of Wnt pathway components during skeletal development and disease.
PMCID: PMC3392173  PMID: 22079544
Lrp5; Lrp6; Sclerostin; β-catenin; R-spondin; Bone mineral density; Polymorphisms
9.  Wnt signaling in the niche enforces hematopoietic stem cell quiescence and is necessary to preserve self-renewal in vivo 
Cell stem cell  2008;2(3):274-283.
Wingless (Wnt) is a potent morphogen demonstrated in multiple cell lineages to promote the expansion and maintenance of stem and progenitor cell populations. Pharmacologic modification of Wnt signaling has been shown to increase hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). We explored the impact of Wnt signaling in vivo, specifically within the context of the HSC niche. Using an osteoblast-specific promoter to drive the expression of a pan-inhibitor of canonical Wnt signaling, Dickkopf1 (Dkk1), we noted changes in trabecular bone and in HSC. Wnt signaling was inhibited in HSC and the cells exhibited reduced p21Cip1 expression, increased cell cycling and a progressive decline in regenerative function after transplantation. This effect was microenvironment-determined, but irreversible if the cells were transferred to a normal host. Wnt pathway activation in the niche is required to preserve the reconstituting function of endogenous hematopoietic stem cells.
PMCID: PMC2991120  PMID: 18371452
10.  Brachy-syndactyly caused by loss of Sfrp2 function 
Journal of cellular physiology  2008;217(1):127-137.
Wnt signaling pathways are regulated both at the intracellular and extracellular levels. During embryogenesis, the in vivo effects of the secreted frizzled related protein (Sfrp) family of Wnt inhibitors are poorly understood. Here, we show that inactivation of Sfrp2 results in subtle limb defects in mice with mesomelic shortening and consistent shortening of all autopodal elements that is clinically manifested as brachydactyly. In addition, there is soft tissue syndactyly of the hindlimb. The brachydactyly is caused by decreased chondrocyte proliferation and delayed differentiation in distal limb chondrogenic elements. These data suggest that Sfrp2 can regulate both chondrogenesis and regression of interdigital mesenchyme in distal limb. Sfrp2 can also repress canonical Wnt signaling by Wnt1, Wnt9a, and Wnt4 in vitro. Sfrp2-/- and TOPGAL/Sfrp2-/- mice have a mild increase in beta-catenin and beta-galactosidase staining, respectively, in some phalangeal elements. This however does not exclude a potential concurrent effect on non-canonical Wnt signaling in the growth plate. In combination with what is known about BMP and Wnt signaling in human brachydactylies, our data establish a critical role for Sfrp2 in proper distal limb formation and suggest SFPR2 could be a novel candidate gene for human brachy-syndactyly defects.
PMCID: PMC2677682  PMID: 18446812
secreted-frizzled; Wnt; Sfrp2; brachydactyly; syndactyly
11.  The Influence of Leucine-rich Amelogenin Peptide on MSC Fate by Inducing Wnt10b Expression 
Biomaterials  2011;32(27):6478-6486.
Amelogenin is the most abundant protein of the enamel organic matrix and is a structural protein indispensable for enamel formation. One of the amelogenin splicing isoforms, Leucine-rich Amelogenin Peptide (LRAP) induces osteogenesis in various cell types. Previously, we demonstrated that LRAP activates the canonical Wnt signaling pathway to induce osteogenic differentiation of mouse ES cells through the concerted regulation of Wnt agonists and antagonists. There is a reciprocal relationship between osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation in bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMMSCs). Wnt10b-mediated activation of canonical Wnt signaling has been shown to regulate mesenchymal stem cell fate. Using the bipotential bone marrow stromal cell line ST2, we have demonstrated that LRAP activates the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. A specific Wnt inhibitor sFRP-1 abolishes the effect of LRAP on the stimulation of osteogenesis and the inhibition of adipogenesis of ST2 cells. LRAP treatment elevates the Wnt10b expression level whereas Wnt10b knockdown by siRNA abrogates the effect of LRAP. We show here that LRAP promotes osteogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells at the expense of adipogenesis through upregulating Wnt10b expression to activate Wnt signaling.
PMCID: PMC3134126  PMID: 21663957
12.  The Planar Cell Polarity Pathway Directs Parietal Endoderm Migration 
Developmental biology  2009;330(1):44-53.
Parietal endoderm (PE) contributes to the yolk sac and is the first migratory cell type in the mammalian embryo. We can visualize PE migration in vitro using the F9 teratocarcinoma derived embryoid body outgrowth system and, show here that PE migration is directed by the non-canonical Wnt Planar Cell Polarity (PCP) pathway via Rho/ROCK. Based on golgi apparatus localization and microtubule orientation, 68.6% of cells in control outgrowths are oriented in the direction of migration. Perturbation of Wnt signaling via sFRP treatment results in a loss of orientation coupled with an increase in cell migration. Inhibition of the PCP pathway at the level of Daam1 also results in a loss of cell orientation along with an increase in cell migration, as seen with sFRP treatment. Constitutively active Daam can inhibit the loss of orientation that occurs with sFRP treatment. We previously demonstrated that ROCK inhibition leads to an increase in cell migration, and we now show that these cells also lack oriented migration. Canonical Wnt signaling or the Rac arm of the PCP pathway do not appear to play a role in PE oriented migration. These data suggest the PCP pathway via Rho/ROCK modulates migration of PE.
PMCID: PMC2683901  PMID: 19306866
13.  Autocrine WNT signaling contributes to breast cancer cell proliferation via the canonical WNT pathway and EGFR transactivation 
De-regulation of the wingless and integration site growth factor (WNT) signaling pathway via mutations in APC and Axin, proteins that target β-catenin for destruction, have been linked to various types of human cancer. These genetic alterations rarely, if ever, are observed in breast tumors. However, various lines of evidence suggest that WNT signaling may also be de-regulated in breast cancer. Most breast tumors show hypermethylation of the promoter region of secreted Frizzled-related protein 1 (sFRP1), a negative WNT pathway regulator, leading to downregulation of its expression. As a consequence, WNT signaling is enhanced and may contribute to proliferation of human breast tumor cells. We previously demonstrated that, in addition to the canonical WNT/β-catenin pathway, WNT signaling activates the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) pathway in mouse mammary epithelial cells via epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) transactivation.
Using the WNT modulator sFRP1 and short interfering RNA-mediated Dishevelled (DVL) knockdown, we interfered with autocrine WNT signaling at the ligand-receptor level. The impact on proliferation was measured by cell counting, YOPRO, and the MTT (3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium bromide) assay; β-catenin, EGFR, ERK1/2 activation, and PARP (poly [ADP-ribose]polymerase) cleavages were assessed by Western blotting after treatment of human breast cancer cell lines with conditioned media, purified proteins, small-molecule inhibitors, or blocking antibodies.
Phospho-DVL and stabilized β-catenin are present in many breast tumor cell lines, indicating autocrine WNT signaling activity. Interfering with this loop decreases active β-catenin levels, lowers ERK1/2 activity, blocks proliferation, and induces apoptosis in MDA-MB-231, BT474, SkBr3, JIMT-1, and MCF-7 cells. The effects of WNT signaling are mediated partly by EGFR transactivation in human breast cancer cells in a metalloprotease- and Src-dependent manner. Furthermore, Wnt1 rescues estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer cells from the anti-proliferative effects of 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-HT) and this activity can be blocked by an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor.
Our data show that interference with autocrine WNT signaling in human breast cancer reduces proliferation and survival of human breast cancer cells and rescues ER+ tumor cells from 4-HT by activation of the canonical WNT pathway and EGFR transactivation. These findings suggest that interference with WNT signaling at the ligand-receptor level in combination with other targeted therapies may improve the efficiency of breast cancer treatments.
PMCID: PMC2242658  PMID: 17897439
14.  Thyroid hormone-mediated growth and differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes involves IGF-1 modulation of β-catenin signaling 
Thyroid hormone regulates terminal differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes in part through modulation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. IGF-1 has been described as a stabilizer of β-catenin, and thyroid hormone is a known stimulator of IGF-1 receptor expression. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that IGF-1 signaling is involved in the interaction between the thyroid hormone and the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways in regulating growth plate chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation.
The results show that IGF-1 and IGF1R stimulate Wnt-4 expression and β-catenin activation in growth plate chondrocytes. The positive effects of IGF-1/IGF1R on chondrocyte proliferation and terminal differentiation are partially inhibited by the Wnt antagonists sFRP3 and Dkk1. T3 activates IGF-1/IGF1R signaling and IGF-1-dependent PI3K/Akt/GSK3β signaling in growth plate chondrocytes undergoing proliferation and differentiation to prehypertrophy. T3-mediated Wnt-4 expression, β-catenin activation, cell proliferation and terminal differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes are partially prevented by the IGF1R inhibitor picropodophyllin as well as the PI3K/Akt signaling inhibitors LY294002 and Akti1/2.
These data indicate that the interactions between thyroid hormone and β-catenin signaling in regulating growth plate chondrocyte proliferation and terminal differentiation are modulated by IGF-1/IGF1R signaling through both the Wnt and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways. While chondrocyte proliferation may be triggered by the IGF-1/IGF1R mediated PI3K/Akt/GSK3β pathway, cell hypertrophy is likely due to activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, which is at least in part initiated by IGF-1 signaling or the IGF-1-activated PI3K/Akt signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3123724  PMID: 20200966
thyroid hormone; insulin-like growth factor-1; β-catenin; growth plate chondrocytes
15.  Thyroid Hormone-Mediated Growth and Differentiation of Growth Plate Chondrocytes Involves IGF-1 Modulation of β-Catenin Signaling 
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research  2009;25(5):1138-1146.
Thyroid hormone regulates terminal differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes in part through modulation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) has been described as a stabilizer of β-catenin, and thyroid hormone is a known stimulator of IGF-1 receptor expression. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that IGF-1 signaling is involved in the interaction between the thyroid hormone and the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways in regulating growth plate chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation. The results show that IGF-1 and the IGF- receptor (IGF1R) stimulate Wnt-4 expression and β-catenin activation in growth plate chondrocytes. The positive effects of IGF-1/IGF1R on chondrocyte proliferation and terminal differentiation are partially inhibited by the Wnt antagonists sFRP3 and Dkk1. T3 activates IGF-1/IGF1R signaling and IGF-1-dependent PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signaling in growth plate chondrocytes undergoing proliferation and differentiation to prehypertrophy. T3-mediated Wnt-4 expression, β-catenin activation, cell proliferation, and terminal differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes are partially prevented by the IGF1R inhibitor picropodophyllin as well as by the PI3K/Akt signaling inhibitors LY294002 and Akti1/2. These data indicate that the interactions between thyroid hormone and β-catenin signaling in regulating growth plate chondrocyte proliferation and terminal differentiation are modulated by IGF-1/IGF1R signaling through both the Wnt and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways. While chondrocyte proliferation may be triggered by the IGF-1/IGF1R-mediated PI3K/Akt/GSK3β pathway, cell hypertrophy is likely due to activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, which is at least in part initiated by IGF-1 signaling or the IGF-1-activated PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. © 2010 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.
PMCID: PMC3123724  PMID: 20200966
thyroid hormone; insulin-like growth factor 1; β-catenin; growth plate chondrocytes
16.  WNT-3A modulates articular chondrocyte phenotype by activating both canonical and noncanonical pathways 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;193(3):551-564.
A single Wnt can simultaneously activate different pathways with distinct and independent outcomes and reciprocal regulation in human articular chondrocytes.
Activation and disruption of Wnt/β-catenin signaling both result in cartilage breakdown via unknown mechanisms. Here we show that both WNT-3A and the Wnt inhibitor DKK1 induced de-differentiation of human articular chondrocytes through simultaneous activation of β-catenin–dependent and independent responses. WNT-3A activates both the β-catenin–dependent canonical pathway and the Ca2+/CaMKII noncanonical pathways, with distinct transcriptional targets. WNT-3A promotes cell proliferation and loss of expression of the chondrocyte markers COL2A1, Aggrecan, and SOX9; however, proliferation and AXIN2 up-regulation are downstream of the canonical pathway and are rescued by DKK1, whereas the loss of differentiation markers is CaMKII dependent. Finally, we showed that in chondrocytes, the Ca2+/CaMKII-dependent and β-catenin–dependent pathways are reciprocally inhibitory, thereby explaining why DKK1 can induce loss of differentiation through de-repression of the CaMKII pathway. We propose a novel model in which a single WNT can simultaneously activate different pathways with distinct and independent outcomes and with reciprocal regulation. This offers an opportunity for selective pharmacological targeting.
PMCID: PMC3087013  PMID: 21536751
17.  Secreted Frizzled-Related Protein-2 (sFRP2) Augments Canonical Wnt3a-induced Signaling 
Secreted Frizzled-Related Proteins (sFRP) are involved in embryonic development as well as pathological conditions including bone and myocardial disorders and cancer. Because of their sequence homology with the Wnt-binding domain of Frizzled, they have generally been considered antagonists of canonical Wnt signaling. However, additional activities of various sFRPs including both synergism and mimicry of Wnt signaling as well as functions other than modulation of Wnt signaling have been reported. Using human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293A), we found that sFRP2 enhanced Wnt3a-dependent phosphorylation of LRP6 as well as both cytosolic β-catenin levels and its nuclear translocation. While addition of recombinant sFRP2 had no activity by itself, Top/Fop luciferase reporter assays showed a dose-dependent increase of Wnt3a-mediated transcriptional activity. sFRP2 enhancement of Wnt3a signaling was abolished by treatment with the Wnt antagonist, Dickkopf-1 (DKK1). Wnt-signaling pathway qPCR arrays showed that sFRP2 enhanced the Wnt3a-mediated transcriptional up-regulation of several genes regulated by Wnt3a including its antagonists, DKK1 and Naked cuticle-1 homolog (NKD1). These results support sFRP2’s role as an enhancer of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, a result with biological impact for both normal development and diverse pathologies such as tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC2952323  PMID: 20723538
Wnt3a; sFRP2; Wnt signaling; LRP6/5; β-catenin
18.  Opposite Spectrum of Activity of Canonical Wnt Signaling in the Osteogenic Context of Undifferentiated and Differentiated Mesenchymal Cells: Implications for Tissue Engineering 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2010;16(10):3185-3197.
To delineate the competence window in which canonical wingless (Wnt)-signaling can either inhibit or promote osteogenic differentiation, we have analyzed cells with different status, specifically undifferentiated mesenchymal cells, such as adipose-derived stem cells and embryonic calvarial mesenchymal cells, and differentiated mesenchymal cells such as juvenile immature calvarial osteoblasts and adult calvarial osteoblasts. Our analysis indicated that undifferentiated mesenchymal cells and juvenile calvarial osteoblasts are endowed with higher levels of endogenous canonical Wnt signaling compared to fully differentiated adult calvarial osteoblasts, and that different levels of activation inversely correlated with expression levels of several Wnt antagonists. We have observed that activation of canonical Wnt signaling may elicit opposite biological activity in the context of osteogenic differentiation depending on the status of cell, the threshold levels of its activation, and Wnt ligands concentration. The results presented in this study indicate that treatment with Wnt3 and/or expression of constitutively activated β-catenin inhibits osteogenic differentiation of undifferentiated mesenchymal cells, whereas expression of dominant negative transcription factor 4 (Tcf4) and/or secreted frizzled related protein 1 treatment enhances their osteogenic differentiation. Wnt3a treatment also inhibits osteogenesis in juvenile calvarial osteoblasts in a dose-dependent fashion. Conversely, Wnt3a treatment strongly induces osteogenesis in mature calvarial osteoblasts in a dose-dependent manner. Importantly, in vitro data correlated with in vivo results showing that Wnt3a treatment of calvarial defects, created in juvenile mice, promotes calvarial healing and bone regeneration only at low doses, whereas high doses of Wnt3a impairs tissue regeneration. In contrast, high doses of Wnt3a enhance bony tissue regeneration and calvarial healing in adult mice. Therefore, the knowledge of both endogenous activity of canonical Wnt signaling and appropriate concentrations of Wnt3a treatment may lead to significant improvement for bony tissue engineering, as well as for the efficient implement of adipose-derived stem cells in bone regeneration. Indeed, this study has important potential implications for tissue engineering, specifically for repair of juvenile bone defects.
PMCID: PMC2947420  PMID: 20590472
19.  Aberrant Amplification of the Crosstalk between Canonical Wnt Signaling and N-glycosylation Gene DPAGT1 Promotes Oral Cancer 
Oral Oncology  2012;48(6):523-529.
Oral cancer is one of the most aggressive epithelial malignancies, whose incidence is on the rise. Previous studies have shown that in a subset of human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) tumor specimens, overexpression of the DPAGT1 gene, encoding the dolichol-P-dependent N-acetylglucoseamine-1-phosphate transferase, a key regulator of the metabolic pathway of protein N-glycosylation, drives tumor cell discohesion by inhibiting E-cadherin adhesive function. Recently, we reported that DPAGT1 was a target of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway. Here, we link overexpression of DPAGT1 in human OSCC tumor specimens to aberrant activation of canonical Wnt signaling. We report dramatic increases in β- and γ-catenins at the DPAGT1 promoter and correlate them with reduced expression of a Wnt inhibitor, Dickkopf-1 (Dkk-1). Using human squamous carcinoma cell lines of the head and neck, we show that partial inhibition of DPAGT1 reduces canonical Wnt signaling, indicating that DPAGT1 and canonical Wnt signaling function in a positive feedback loop. We provide evidence that E-cadherin inhibits DPAGT1, canonical Wnt signaling and the OSCC cancer phenotype by depleting nuclear β-and γ-catenins, with hypoglycosylated E-cadherin being the most effective.This suggests that in human OSCC, extensive N-glycosylation of E-cadherin compromises its ability to inhibit canonical Wnt signaling and DPAGT1 expression. Our studies reveal a novel interplay between DPAGT1/N-glycosylation and canonical Wnt signaling and suggest that dysregulation of this crosstalk is a key mechanism underlying OSCC. They also suggest that partial inhibition of DPAGT1 may represent an effective way to restore normal interactions among these essential pathways in oral cancer.
PMCID: PMC3362683  PMID: 22341307
Oral cancer; OSCC; canonical Wnt signaling; DPAGT1; N-glycosylation; Dkk-1; E-cadherin; β-catenin; γ-catenin
20.  Purified Wnt5a Protein Activates or Inhibits β-Catenin–TCF Signaling Depending on Receptor Context 
PLoS Biology  2006;4(4):e115.
The Wnts comprise a large class of secreted proteins that control essential developmental processes such as embryonic patterning, cell growth, migration, and differentiation. In the most well-understood “canonical” Wnt signaling pathway, Wnt binding to Frizzled receptors induces β-catenin protein stabilization and entry into the nucleus, where it complexes with T-cell factor/lymphoid enhancer factor transcription factors to affect the transcription of target genes. In addition to the canonical pathway, evidence for several other Wnt signaling pathways has accumulated, in particular for Wnt5a, which has therefore been classified as a noncanonical Wnt family member. To study the alternative mechanisms by which Wnt proteins signal, we purified the Wnt5a protein to homogeneity. We find that purified Wnt5a inhibits Wnt3a protein–induced canonical Wnt signaling in a dose-dependent manner, not by influencing β-catenin levels but by downregulating β-catenin–induced reporter gene expression. The Wnt5a signal is mediated by the orphan tyrosine kinase Ror2, is pertussis toxin insensitive, and does not influence cellular calcium levels. We show that in addition to its inhibitory function, Wnt5a can also activate β-catenin signaling in the presence of the appropriate Frizzled receptor, Frizzled 4. Thus, this study shows for the first time that a single Wnt ligand can initiate discrete signaling pathways through the activation of two distinct receptors. Based on these and additional observations, we propose a model wherein receptor context dictates Wnt signaling output. In this model, signaling by different Wnt family members is not intrinsically regulated by the Wnt proteins themselves but by receptor availability.
Understanding signaling by Wnt proteins has been hampered by a history of conflicting data. The authors reconcile previous findings concerning Wnt signaling by using purified Wnt5a to probe the signaling pathways it activates.
PMCID: PMC1420652  PMID: 16602827
21.  Noncanonical Wnt signaling promotes osteoclast differentiation and is facilitated by the human immunodeficiency virus protease inhibitor ritonavir 
Wnt proteins that signal via the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway directly regulate osteoblast differentiation. In contrast, most studies of Wnt-related effects on osteoclasts involve indirect changes. While investigating bone mineral density loss in the setting of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and its treatment with the protease inhibitor ritonavir (RTV), we observed that RTV decreased nuclear localization of β-catenin, critical to canonical Wnt signaling, in primary human and murine osteoclast precursors. This occurred in parallel with upregulation of Wnt5a and Wnt5b transcripts. These Wnts typically stimulate noncanonical Wnt signaling, and this can antagonize the canonical Wnt pathway in many cell types, dependent upon Wnt receptor usage. We now document RTV-mediated upregulation of Wnt5a/b protein in osteoclast precursors. Recombinant Wnt5b and retrovirus-mediated expression of Wnt5a enhanced osteoclast differentiation from human and murine monocytic precursors, processes facilitated by RTV. In contrast, canonical Wnt signaling mediated by Wnt3a suppressed osteoclastogenesis. Both RTV and Wnt5b inhibited canonical, β-catenin/T cell factor-based Wnt reporter activation in osteoclast precursors. RTV- and Wnt5-induced osteoclast differentiation were dependent upon the receptor-like tyrosine kinase Ryk, suggesting that Ryk may act as a Wnt5a/b receptor in this context. This is the first demonstration of a direct role for Wnt signaling pathways and Ryk in regulation of osteoclast differentiation, and its modulation by a clinically important drug, ritonavir. These studies also reveal a potential role for noncanonical Wnt5a/b signaling in acceleration of bone mineral density loss in HIV-infected individuals, and illuminate a potential means of influencing such processes in disease states that involve enhanced osteoclast activity.
PMCID: PMC3259256  PMID: 22142846
β-catenin; human immunodeficiency virus; osteoclast; pathogenesis; protease inhibitor; Wnt signaling
22.  A potential role for Dkk-1 in the pathogenesis of osteosarcoma predicts novel diagnostic and treatment strategies 
British Journal of Cancer  2007;97(11):1552-1559.
Canonical Wnt signalling is an osteoinductive signal that promotes bone repair through acceleration of osteogenic differentiation by progenitors. Dkk-1 is a secreted inhibitor of canonical Wnt signalling and thus inhibits osteogenesis. To examine a potential osteoinhibitory role of Dkk-1 in osteosarcoma (OS), we measured serum Dkk-1 in paediatric patients with OS (median age, 13.4 years) and found it to be significantly elevated. We also found that Dkk-1 was maximally expressed by the OS cells at the tumour periphery and in vitro, Dkk-1 and RANKL are coexpressed by rapidly proliferating OS cells. Both Dkk-1 and conditioned media from OS cells reduce osteogenesis by human mesenchymal cells and by immunodepletion of Dkk-1, or by adding a GSK3β inhibitor, the effects of Dkk-1 were attenuated. In mice, we found that the expression of Dkk-1 from implanted tumours was similar to the human tumour biopsies in that human Dkk-1 was present in the serum of recipient animals. These data demonstrate that systemic levels of Dkk-1 are elevated in OS. Furthermore, the expression of Dkk-1 by the OS cells at the periphery of the tumour probably contributes to its expansion by inhibiting repair of the surrounding bone. These data demonstrate that Dkk-1 may serve as a prognostic or diagnostic marker for evaluation of OS and furthermore, immunodepletion of Dkk-1 or administration of GSK3β inhibitors could represent an adjunct therapy for this disease.
PMCID: PMC2360262  PMID: 17987039
mesenchymal stem cell; osteosarcoma; Dkk-1; MSC
23.  MiR-27a Targets sFRP1 in hFOB Cells to Regulate Proliferation, Apoptosis and Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91354.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play a key role in the regulation of almost all the physiological and pathological processes, including bone metabolism. Recent studies have suggested that miR-27 might play a key role in osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Increasing evidence indicates that the canonical Wnt signaling pathway contributes to different stages of bone formation. In this study, we identify miR-27a can promote osteoblast differentiation by repressing a new target, secreted frizzled-related proteins 1 (sFRP1) expression at the transcriptional level. Here, 21 candidate targets of miR-27a involved in canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling were predicted, and a significant decrease in sFRP1 luciferase activity was observed both in 293T and MG63 cells co-transfected with the matched luciferase reporter constructs and miR-27a mimic. Furthermore, the presence of exogenous miR-27a significantly decreased sFRP1 mRNA and protein expression in hFOB1.19 cells during both proliferation and osteogenic differentiation. The over-expression of miR-27a or knockdown sFRP1 significantly increased the percentage of apoptotic hFOBs, the percentage of cells in the G2-M phase of the cell cycle and the expression of key osteoblastic markers, including ALP, SPP1, RUNX2 and ALP activity. Over-expression of miR-27a or knockdown of endogenous sFRP1 led to an accumulation of β-catenin in hFOBs. In the present study, we demonstrate that miR-27a induced gene silencing effect is a vital mechanism contributing to bone metabolism in hFOB cells in vitro, which is partly affected by the post-transcriptional regulation of sFRP1, during osteoblast proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3953332  PMID: 24625818
24.  Transcriptional regulation of Wnt inhibitory factor-1 by Miz-1/c-Myc 
Oncogene  2010;29(44):5923-5934.
The Wnt signaling pathway is capable of self-regulation through positive and negative feedback mechanisms. For example, the oncoprotein c-Myc, which is upregulated by Wnt signaling activity, participates in a positive feedback loop of canonical Wnt signaling through repression of Wnt antagonists DKK1 and SFRP1. In this study, we investigated the mechanism of Wnt inhibitory factor-1 (WIF-1) silencing. Mapping of CpG island methylation of the WIF-1 promoter reveals regional methylation (–295 to –95 bp from the transcription start site) that correlates with transcriptional silencing. We identified Miz-1 as a direct activator of WIF-1 transcriptional activity, which is found at WIF-1 promoter. In addition, we show that c-Myc contributes to WIF-1 transcriptional repression in a Miz-1-dependent manner. Although the transient repression mediated by Miz-1/c-Myc is independent of de novo methylation, the stable repression by this complex is associated with CpG island methylation of the critical –295 to –95-bp region of the WIF-1 promoter. Importantly, Miz-1 and c-Myc are found at WIF-1 promoter in WIF-1 non-expressing cell lines DLD-1 and 209myc. Transient knockdown or somatic knockout of c-Myc in DLD-1 failed to restore WIF-1 expression suggesting that c-Myc is involved in initiating rather than maintaining WIF-1 epigenetic silencing. In a genome-wide screen, DNAJA4, TGFβ-induced and TRIM59 were repressed by c-Myc overexpression and DNA promoter hypermethylation. Our data reveal novel insights into c-Myc-mediated DNA methylation-dependent transcriptional silencing, a mechanism that might contribute to the dysregulation of Wnt signaling in cancer.
PMCID: PMC3230129  PMID: 20697356
WIF-1; Wnt signaling; c-Myc; Miz-1; DNA methylation
25.  Regulation of norrin receptor frizzled-4 by Wnt2 in colon-derived cells 
BMC Cell Biology  2007;8:12.
Norrin is a potent Wnt pathway ligand. Aberrant activation of this signaling pathway can result in colon tumors but the role of norrin-based signaling in the genesis of colon cancer, and its relationship to activation of the pathway by traditional Wnt ligands, is not defined.
Fresh normal human colon tissue and all the cell lines studied expressed mRNA for Fz4, LRP5 and norrin, except Colo205 which lacked Fz4 expression. Canonical Wnt pathway throughput was increased slightly in NCM460 following treatment with Wnt3a CM but was inhibited by Wnt2 and Wnt1. The colon cancer cell line, RKO, responded to Wnt3a CM, Wnt2 and Wnt1 by increasing canonical Wnt pathway throughput. Wnt5a did not affect Wnt pathway throughput in either cell line. Wnt2, but not Wnt3a, abrogated Fz4 expression in NCM460, but not in RKO or another colon cancer cell line, HCT116. This effect on Fz4 was confirmed at both the RNA and protein levels via RT-PCR and a norrin binding assay. The expression of all others 9 Fz receptors did not change after treatment of NCM460 cells with Wnt2.
The data suggests that colonic mucosa and colon tumors may possess two autoregulatory positive Wnt feedback loops, one through canonical signals induced by Wnt:Fz interactions and one through signals resulting from norrin:Fz4 interactions. The latter interactions may be modulated via regulation of Fz4 expression by Wnt2. Retention of Fz4 by cancers, in contrast to the loss of Fz4 by normal mucosal cells, could provide a selective advantage to the tumor cells. Fz4 expression may play a critical role in responses to Wnt signaling in the tumor microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC1847812  PMID: 17386109

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