Self-renewal of rodent embryonic stem (ES) cells is enhanced by partial inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (Gsk3)1
2. This effect has variously been attributed to stimulation of Wnt signalling via β-catenin1, stabilisation of cMyc3, and global de-inhibition of anabolic processes4. Here we demonstrate that β-catenin is not necessary for ES cell identity or expansion, but its absence eliminates the self-renewal response to Gsk3 inhibition. Responsiveness is fully restored by truncated β-catenin lacking the C-terminal transactivation domain5. However, requirement for Gsk3 inhibition is dictated by expression of Tcf3 and mediated by direct interaction with β-catenin. Tcf3 localises to many pluripotency genes6 in ES cells. Our findings confirm that Tcf3 acts as a transcriptional repressor and reveal that β-catenin directly abrogates Tcf3 function. We conclude that Gsk3 inhibition stabilises the ES cell state primarily by reducing repressive influence on the core pluripotency network.
The maintenance of pluripotency in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) relies on the activity of a transcriptional network that is fuelled by the activity of three transcription factors (Nanog, Oct4 and Sox2) and balanced by the repressive activity of Tcf3. Extracellular signals modulate the activity of the network and regulate the differentiation capacity of the cells. Wnt/β-catenin signaling has emerged as a significant potentiator of pluripotency: increases in the levels of β-catenin regulate the activity of Oct4 and Nanog, and enhance pluripotency. A recent report shows that β-catenin achieves some of these effects by modulating the activity of Tcf3, and that this effect does not require its transcriptional activation domain. Here, we show that during self-renewal there is negligible transcriptional activity of β-catenin and that this is due to its tight association with membranes, where we find it in a complex with Oct4 and E-cadherin. Differentiation triggers a burst of Wnt/β-catenin transcriptional activity that coincides with the disassembly of the complex. Our results establish that β-catenin, but not its transcriptional activity, is central to pluripotency acting through a β-catenin/Oct4 complex.
Oct4; Wnt signaling; Mouse embryonic stem cells; Pluripotency; β-Catenin
Inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (Gsk3) supports mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) by modulating Tcf3, but the critical targets downstream of Tcf3 are unclear. We analyzed the intersection between genome localization and transcriptome data sets to identify genes repressed by Tcf3. Among these, manipulations of Esrrb gave distinctive phenotypes in functional assays. Knockdown and knockout eliminated response to Gsk3 inhibition, causing extinction of pluripotency markers and loss of colony forming capability. Conversely, forced expression phenocopied Gsk3 inhibition or Tcf3 deletion by suppressing differentiation and sustaining self-renewal. Thus the nuclear receptor Esrrb is necessary and sufficient to mediate self-renewal downstream of Gsk3 inhibition. Leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) regulates ESCs through Stat3, independently of Gsk3 inhibition. Consistent with parallel operation, ESCs in LIF accommodated Esrrb deletion and remained pluripotent. These findings highlight a key role for Esrrb in regulating the naive pluripotent state and illustrate compensation among the core pluripotency factors.
► Esrrb is the principal target of Tcf3 repression in the pluripotency network ► Esrrb is essential for self-renewal downstream of Gsk3 inhibition ► Esrrb potently suppresses differentiation and sustains ESC self-renewal ► Esrrb is a core pluripotency factor but can be compensated by LIF/Stat3
Inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3 keeps embryonic stem cells in a naïve ground state. Surprisingly this effect is mediated mainly by upregulating expression of a single transcription factor Esrrb. Esrrb function can be compensated by independent activation of Stat3, however, demonstrating the plasticity of the core network underpinning pluripotency.
β-catenin, an adherens junction component and key Wnt pathway effector, regulates numerous developmental processes and supports embryonic stem cell (ESC) pluripotency in specific contexts. The β-catenin homologue γ-catenin (also known as Plakoglobin) is a constituent of desmosomes and adherens junctions and may participate in Wnt signaling in certain situations. Here, we use β-catenin(+/+) and β-catenin(−/−) mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to investigate the role of γ-catenin in Wnt signaling and mESC differentiation. Although γ-catenin protein is markedly stabilized upon inhibition or ablation of GSK-3 in wild-type (WT) mESCs, efficient silencing of its expression in these cells does not affect β-catenin/TCF target gene activation after Wnt pathway stimulation. Nonetheless, knocking down γ-catenin expression in WT mESCs appears to promote their exit from pluripotency in short-term differentiation assays. In β-catenin(−/−) mESCs, GSK-3 inhibition does not detectably alter cytosolic γ-catenin levels and does not activate TCF target genes. Intriguingly, β-catenin/TCF target genes are induced in β-catenin(−/−) mESCs overexpressing stabilized γ-catenin and the ability of these genes to be activated upon GSK-3 inhibition is partially restored when wild-type γ-catenin is overexpressed in these cells. This suggests that a critical threshold level of total catenin expression must be attained before there is sufficient signaling-competent γ-catenin available to respond to GSK-3 inhibition and to regulate target genes as a consequence. WT mESCs stably overexpressing γ-catenin exhibit robust Wnt pathway activation and display a block in tri-lineage differentiation that largely mimics that observed upon overexpression of β-catenin. However, β-catenin overexpression appears to be more effective than γ-catenin overexpression in sustaining the retention of markers of naïve pluripotency in cells that have been subjected to differentiation-inducing conditions. Collectively, our study reveals a function for γ-catenin in the regulation of mESC differentiation and has implications for human cancers in which γ-catenin is mutated and/or aberrantly expressed.
Maintenance of embryonic stem cell (ESC) self-renewal and pluripotency are controlled by extrinsic factors, molecular signaling pathways and transcriptional regulators. While many of the key players have been studied in depth, how the molecular signals interact with transcription factors of the pluripotency network to regulate their action remains less well understood. Inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (Gsk-3) has been implicated in the maintenance of mouse ESC pluripotency, although there is contradictory data on its role, with enhancement of cell survival and metabolism, stabilisation of c-Myc and activation of Wnt signalling proposed as potential mechanisms. We have discovered that suppression of Gsk-3 activity leads to enhanced protein levels of key transcriptional regulators of the pluripotency network, notably Nanog, Tbx3 and c-Myc. Protein stability was unchanged following Gsk-3 inhibition, although interestingly, Nanog and Tbx3 proteins were found to have half-lives of 1–3 h, while that of Oct4 protein was longer, at 6 h. We demonstrate that the effects on protein levels seen following inhibition of Gsk-3 are due to both enhanced de novo synthesis of Nanog protein and increases in the proportion of Nanog and Tbx3 RNAs bound to polysomes, findings consistent with Gsk-3 regulating translation of these factors. These effects were not due to changes in regulators of general translation initiation machinery nor mediated via the 5′ or 3′ UTR sequences of Nanog alone. The data we present provide both new conceptual insight into the mechanisms regulated by Gsk-3 that may contribute to ESC self-renewal and, importantly, establish control of protein translation as an additional mechanism involved in modulation of ESC pluripotency.
Suppressing the activity of Gsk3β is critical for maintenance of murine pluripotent stem cells. In murine embryonic stem cells (mESCs), Gsk3β is inhibited by multiple mechanisms, including its inhibitory phosphorylation on serine 9 by protein kinase B (Akt), a major effector of the canonical phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway. A second PI3K/Akt-regulated mechanism promotes the nuclear export of Gsk3β, thereby restricting its access to nuclear substrates such as c-myc and β-catenin. Although Gsk3β shuttles between the nucleus and cytoplasm under self-renewing conditions, its localization is primarily cytoplasmic because its rate of nuclear export exceeds its rate of nuclear import. In this report, we show that Gsk3β is exported from the nucleus in a complex with Frat. Loss of PI3K/Akt activity results in dissociation of this complex and retention of Gsk3β in the nucleus. Frat continues to shuttle between the nucleus and cytoplasm under these conditions and remains predominantly in the cytoplasm. These results indicate that Frat carries Gsk3β out of the nucleus under self-renewing conditions and that PI3K regulates this by promoting its association with Frat. These findings provide new links between PI3K/Akt signaling and regulation of Gsk3β activity by Frat, an oncogene previously shown to cooperate with Myc in tumorigenesis.
Canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling has been suggested to promote self-renewal of pluripotent mouse and human embryonic stem cells. Here, we show that SB-216763, a glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) inhibitor, can maintain mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) in a pluripotent state in the absence of exogenous leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) when cultured on mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). MESCs maintained with SB-216763 for one month were morphologically indistinguishable from LIF-treated mESCs and expressed pluripotent-specific genes Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog. Furthermore, Nanog immunostaining was more homogenous in SB-216763-treated colonies compared to LIF. Embryoid bodies (EBs) prepared from these mESCs expressed early-stage markers for all three germ layers, and could efficiently differentiate into cardiac-like cells and MAP2-immunoreactive neurons. To our knowledge, SB-216763 is the first GSK3 inhibitor that can promote self-renewal of mESC co-cultured with MEFs for more than two months.
The observation that Tcf3 (MGI name: Tcf7l1) bound the same genes as core stem cell transcription factors, Oct4 (MGI name:Pou5f1), Sox2 and Nanog, revealed a potentially important aspect of the poorly understood mechanism whereby Wnts stimulate self renewal of pluripotent mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. Although the conventional view of Tcf proteins as the β-catenin-binding effectors of Wnt signaling suggested Tcf3-β-catenin mediated activation of target genes would stimulate ES cell self renewal, here we show that an antagonistic relationship between Wnt3a and Tcf3 on gene expression is important for regulating ES cell self renewal. Genetic ablation of Tcf3 replaced the requirement for exogenous Wnt3a or GSK3-inhibition for self renewal of ES cells, demonstrating that inhibition of Tcf3-repressor is the necessary downstream effect of Wnt signaling. Interestingly, the molecular mechanism underlying Wnt’s effects required both Tcf3-β-catenin and Tcf1-β-catenin interactions, as they each contributed to Wnt stimulation of self renewal and gene expression. Finally, the combination of Tcf3 and Tcf1 was necessary to recruit Wnt-stabilized β-catenin to Oct4 binding sites in ES cell chromatin. These results elucidate the molecular link between the effects of Wnt and the regulation of the Oct4/Sox2/Nanog network.
The wnt pathway regulates the steady state level of β-catenin, a transcriptional coactivator for the Tcf3/Lef1 family of DNA binding proteins. We demonstrate that Tcf3 can inhibit β-catenin turnover via its competition with axin and adenomatous polyposis for β-catenin binding. A mutant of β-catenin that cannot bind Tcf3 is degraded faster than the wild-type protein in Xenopus embryos and extracts. A fragment of β-catenin and a peptide encoding the NH2 terminus of Tcf4 that block the interaction between β-catenin and Tcf3 stimulate β-catenin degradation, indicating this interaction normally plays an important role in regulating β-catenin turnover. Tcf3 is a substrate for both glycogen synthase kinase (GSK) 3 and casein kinase (CK) 1ε, and phosphorylation of Tcf3 by CKIε stimulates its binding to β-catenin, an effect reversed by GSK3. Tcf3 synergizes with CK1ε to inhibit β-catenin degradation, whereas CKI-7, an inhibitor of CK1ε, reduces the inhibitory effect of Tcf3. Finally, we provide evidence that CK1ε stimulates the binding of dishevelled (dsh) to GSk3 binding protein (GBP) in extracts. Along with evidence that a significant amount of Tcf protein is nonnuclear, these findings suggest that CK1ε can modulate wnt signaling in vivo by regulating both the β-catenin-Tcf3 and the GBP-dsh interfaces.
β-catenin; Tcf; wnt; casein kinase; Xenopus
Dishevelled (DVL) is associated with axonal microtubules and regulates microtubule stability through the inhibition of the serine/threonine kinase, glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK-3β). In the canonical WNT pathway, the negative regulator Axin forms a complex with β-catenin and GSK-3β, resulting in β-catenin degradation. Inhibition of GSK-3β by DVL increases β-catenin stability and TCF transcriptional activation. Here, we show that Axin associates with microtubules and unexpectedly stabilizes microtubules through DVL. In turn, DVL stabilizes microtubules by inhibiting GSK-3β through a transcription- and β-catenin–independent pathway. More importantly, axonal microtubules are stabilized after DVL localizes to axons. Increased microtubule stability is correlated with a decrease in GSK-3β–mediated phosphorylation of MAP-1B. We propose a model in which Axin, through DVL, stabilizes microtubules by inhibiting a pool of GSK-3β, resulting in local changes in the phosphorylation of cellular targets. Our data indicate a bifurcation in the so-called canonical WNT-signaling pathway to regulate microtubule stability.
β-catenin; GSK-3β; neurons; cytoskeleton; axin
Glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) is involved in metabolism, neurodegeneration, and cancer. Inhibition of GSK3β activity is the primary mechanism that regulates this widely expressed active kinase. Although the protein kinase Akt inhibits GSK3β by phosphorylation at the N terminus, preventing Akt-mediated phosphorylation does not affect the cell-survival pathway activated through the GSK3β substrate β-catenin. Here, we show that p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) also inactivates GSK3β by direct phosphorylation at its C terminus, and this inactivation can lead to an accumulation of β-catenin. p38 MAPK-mediated phosphorylation of GSK3β occurs primarily in the brain and thymocytes. Activation of β-catenin-mediated signaling through GSK3β inhibition provides a potential mechanism for p38 MAPK-mediated survival in specific tissues.
To understand the molecular mechanisms that regulate the biology of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) it is necessary to study how they behave in vivo in their natural environment. It is particularly important to study the roles and interactions of the different proteins involved in pluripotency and to use this knowledge for therapeutic purposes. The recent description of key pluripotency factors like Oct4 and Nanog in non-mammalian species has introduced other animal models, such as chicken, Xenopus, zebrafish and medaka, to the study of pluripotency in vivo. These animal models complement the mouse model and have provided new insights into the evolution of Oct4 and Nanog and their different functions during embryonic development. Furthermore, other pluripotency factors previously identified in teleost fish such as Klf4, STAT3, Sox2, telomerase and Tcf3 can now be studied in the context of a functional pluripotency network. The many experimental advantages of fish will fuel rapid analysis of the roles of pluripotency factors in fish embryonic development and the identification of new molecules and mechanisms governing pluripotency.
Nanog; Oct4; teleost fish; Medaka; pluripotency.
Elucidating the underlying transcriptional control of pluripotent cells is necessary for the development of new methods of inducing and maintaining pluripotent cells in vitro. Three transcription factors, Nanog, Oct4, and Sox2, have been reported to form a feedforward circuit promoting pluripotent cell self renewal in embryonic stem cells (ESC). Previously, we found that a transcriptional repressor activity of Tcf3, a DNA-binding effector of Wnt signaling, reduced Nanog promoter activity and Nanog levels in mouse ESC (mESC). The objective of this study was to determine the scope of Tcf3 effects on gene expression and self renewal beyond the regulation of Nanog levels. We show that Tcf3 acts broadly on a genome-wide scale to reduce the levels of several promoters of self renewal (Nanog, Tcl1, Tbx3, Esrrb) while not affecting other ESC genes (Oct4, Sox2, Fgf4). Comparing effects of Tcf3 ablation with Oct4 or Nanog knockdown revealed that Tcf3 counteracted effects of both Nanog and Oct4. Interestingly, effects of Tcf3 were more strongly correlated with Oct4 than with Nanog, despite the normal levels of Oct4 in TCF3−/− mESC. The deranged gene expression allowed TCF3−/− mESC self renewal even in the absence of leukemia inhibitory factor (Lif) and delayed differentiation in embryoid bodies. These findings identify Tcf3 as a cell-intrinsic inhibitor of pluripotent cell self renewal that functions by limiting steady-state levels of self renewal factors.
Inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) improves the efficiency of embryonic stem (ES) cell derivation from various strains of mice and rats, as well as dramatically promotes ES cell self-renewal potential. β-catenin has been reported to be involved in the maintenance of self-renewal of ES cells through TCF dependent and independent pathway. But the intrinsic difference between ES cell lines from different species and strains has not been characterized. Here, we dissect the mechanism of GSK-3 inhibition by CHIR99021 in mouse ES cells from refractory mouse strains.
We found that CHIR99021, a GSK-3 specific inhibitor, promotes self-renewal of ES cells from recalcitrant C57BL/6 (B6) and BALB/c mouse strains through stabilization of β-catenin and c-Myc protein levels. Stabilized β-catenin promoted ES self-renewal through two mechanisms. First, β-catenin translocated into the nucleus to maintain stem cell pluripotency in a lymphoid-enhancing factor/T-cell factor–independent manner. Second, β-catenin binds plasma membrane-localized E-cadherin, which ensures a compact, spherical morphology, a hallmark of ES cells. Further, elevated c-Myc protein levels did not contribute significantly to CH-mediated ES cell self-renewal. Instead, the role of c-Myc is dependent on its transformation activity and can be replaced by N-Myc but not L-Myc. β-catenin and c-Myc have similar effects on ES cells derived from both B6 and BALB/c mice.
Our data demonstrated that GSK-3 inhibition by CH promotes self-renewal of mouse ES cells with non-permissive genetic backgrounds by regulation of multiple signaling pathways. These findings would be useful to improve the availability of normally non-permissive mouse strains as research tools.
Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) plays important roles in numerous signaling pathways that regulate a variety of cellular processes including cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and embryonic development. In the canonical Wnt signaling pathway, GSK3 phosphorylation mediates proteasomal targeting and degradation of β-catenin via the destruction complex. We recently reported a biochemical screen that discovered multiple additional protein substrates whose stability is regulated by Wnt signaling and/or GSK3 and these have important implications for Wnt/GSK3 regulation of different cellular processes.1 In this article, we also present a bio-informatics based screen for proteins whose stability may be controlled by GSK3 and β-Trcp, the SCF E3 ubiquitin ligase that is responsible for β-catenin degradation in the Wnt signaling pathway. Furthermore, we review various GSK3 regulated proteolysis substrates described in the literature. We propose that GSK3 phosphorylation dependent proteolysis is a widespread mechanism that the cell employs to regulate a variety of cell processes in response to signals.
GSK3; wnt; degradation; stability; ubiquitination; proteolysis
Embryonic stem (ES) cells have a unique regulatory circuitry, largely controlled by the transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog, which generates a gene expression program necessary for pluripotency and self-renewal. How external signals connect to this regulatory circuitry to influence ES cell fate is not known. We report here that a terminal component of the canonical Wnt pathway in ES cells, the transcription factor T-cell factor-3 (Tcf3), co-occupies promoters throughout the genome in association with the pluripotency regulators Oct4 and Nanog. Thus, Tcf3 is an integral component of the core regulatory circuitry of ES cells, which includes an autoregulatory loop involving the pluripotency regulators. Both Tcf3 depletion and Wnt pathway activation cause increased expression of Oct4, Nanog, and other pluripotency factors and produce ES cells that are refractory to differentiation. Our results suggest that the Wnt pathway, through Tcf3, brings developmental signals directly to the core regulatory circuitry of ES cells to influence the balance between pluripotency and differentiation.
Wnt pathway; embryonic stem cells; Tcf3; regulatory circuitry
The use of small molecules to ‘chemically direct’ differentiation represents a powerful approach to promote specification of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) towards particular functional cell types for use in regenerative medicine and pharmaceutical applications. Here, we demonstrate a novel route for chemically directed differentiation of human ESCs (hESCs) into definitive endoderm (DE) exploiting a selective small-molecule inhibitor of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3). This GSK-3 inhibitor, termed 1m, when used as the only supplement to a chemically defined feeder-free culture system, effectively promoted differentiation of ESC lines towards primitive streak (PS), mesoderm and DE. This contrasts with the role of GSK-3 in murine ESCs, where GSK-3 inhibition promotes pluripotency. Interestingly, 1m-mediated induction of differentiation involved transient NODAL expression and Nodal signalling. Prolonged treatment of hESCs with 1m resulted in the generation of a population of cells displaying hepatoblast characteristics, that is expressing α-fetoprotein and HNF4α. Furthermore, 1m-induced DE had the capacity to mature and generate hepatocyte-like cells capable of producing albumin. These findings describe, for the first time, the utility of GSK-3 inhibition, in a chemically directed approach, to a method of DE generation that is robust, potentially scalable and applicable to different hESC lines.
Embryonic stem cells; Directed differentiation; Definitive endoderm; Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) inhibition; Hepatic differentiation
The fate of pluripotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) is determined through integration of chemical, spatial, and physical signals. The suppression of MSC adipogenesis by mechanical stimuli, which requires Akt-induced inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) with β-catenin activation, can be enhanced by repetitive dosing within a single day. Here, we demonstrate that reapplication of cyclic strain within a 24-hour period leads to amplification of both Akt activation and its subsequent inhibition of GSK3β, such that total cycle number can be reduced while still inhibiting adipogenesis. Amplification of Akt signaling is facilitated by a dynamic restructuring of the cell in response to mechanical signals, as evidenced by a transient increase in focal adhesion (FA) number and increased RhoA activity. Preventing FA assembly or development of tension blocks activation of Akt by mechanical signals, but not by insulin. This indicates that the FA infrastructure is essential to the physical, but not necessarily the chemical, sensitivity, and responsiveness of the cell. Exploiting the transient nature of cytoskeletal remodeling may represent a process to enhance cell responsiveness to mechanical input and ultimately define the fate of MSCs with a minimal input.
Akt; Adipocyte; Focal adhesion; Mechanical force
Neural stem cells (NSCs) can be obtained from a variety of sources, but not all NSCs exhibit the same characteristics. We have examined how the level of glycogen synthase kinase-3 activity regulates NSCs obtained from different sources: the mouse embryonic striatum, embryonic hippocampus, and mouse ES cells. Growth of striatal NSCs is enhanced by mild inhibition of GSK-3 but not by strong inhibition that is accompanied by Wnt/TCF transcriptional activation. In contrast, the growth of hippocampal NSCs is enhanced by both mild inhibition of GSK-3 as well as stronger inhibition. Active Wnt/TCF signaling, which occurs normally in the embryonic hippocampus, is required for growth of neural stem and progenitor cells. In the embryonic striatal germinal zone, however, TCF signaling is normally absent and its activation inhibits growth of NSCs from this region. Using a genetic model for progressive loss of GSK-3, we find that primitive ES cell-derived NSCs resemble striatal NSCs. That is, partial loss of GSK-3 alleles leads to an increase in NSCs while complete ablation of GSK-3, and activation of TCF-signaling, leads to their decline. Furthermore, expression of dominant negative TCF-4 in the GSK-3-null background was effective in blocking expression of Wnt-response genes and was also able to rescue neuronal gene expression. These results reveal that GSK-3 regulates NSCs by divergent pathways depending on the tissue of origin. The responses of these neural precursor cells may be contingent on baseline Wnt/TCF signaling occurring in a particular tissue.
Neural stem cells; Wnt signaling; ES cells; Neurosphere assay
The intricate molecular mechanisms that regulate embryonic stem (ES) cell pluripotency are incompletely understood. Prior research indicated that activation of JAK-STAT3 pathway or inhibition of ERK/GSK3 signaling maintains mouse ES cell (mESC) pluripotency. Here we demonstrate that inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC) isoforms maintains mESC pluripotency without the activation of STAT3 or inhibition of ERK/GSK3 signaling pathways. Our analyses revealed that the atypical PKC isoform, PKCζ plays an important role in inducing lineage commitment in mESCs through a PKCζ–NF-κB signaling axis and inhibition of PKC isoforms maintains ES cell-specific epigenetic modifications. Furthermore, inhibition of PKC isoforms permits derivation of germline-competent ES cells from mouse blastocysts and also facilitates reprogramming of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) towards induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Our results indicate that PKC signaling is critical to balancing ES cell self-renewal and lineage commitment.
Protein Kinase C; Embryonic Stem cells; Pluripotency; Induced pluripotency
Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) is a constitutively active kinase that negatively regulates its substrates, one of which is β-catenin, a downstream effector of the Wnt signaling pathway that is required for dorsal–ventral axis specification in the Xenopus embryo. GSK-3 activity is regulated through the opposing activities of multiple proteins. Axin, GSK-3, and β-catenin form a complex that promotes the GSK-3–mediated phosphorylation and subsequent degradation of β-catenin. Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) joins the complex and downregulates β-catenin in mammalian cells, but its role in Xenopus is less clear. In contrast, GBP, which is required for axis formation in Xenopus, binds and inhibits GSK-3. We show here that GSK-3 binding protein (GBP) inhibits GSK-3, in part, by preventing Axin from binding GSK-3. Similarly, we present evidence that a dominant-negative GSK-3 mutant, which causes the same effects as GBP, keeps endogenous GSK-3 from binding to Axin. We show that GBP also functions by preventing the GSK-3–mediated phosphorylation of a protein substrate without eliminating its catalytic activity. Finally, we show that the previously demonstrated axis-inducing property of overexpressed APC is attributable to its ability to stabilize cytoplasmic β-catenin levels, demonstrating that APC is impinging upon the canonical Wnt pathway in this model system. These results contribute to our growing understanding of how GSK-3 regulation in the early embryo leads to regional differences in β-catenin levels and establishment of the dorsal axis.
Wnt pathway; dorsal/ventral; β-catenin
The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)-encoded latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) protein stabilizes β-catenin by the novel mechanism of binding to the negative regulator, glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3), and depleting cytoplasmic GSK-3 levels. The two domains of LANA required for interaction with GSK-3 were further characterized. Evidence for similarity between the C-terminal LANA interaction domain and the axin GSK-3 interaction domain was obtained using GSK-3 and LANA mutants. GSK-3(F291L), which does not interact with axin, also failed to bind to LANA, and a mutation in the axin homology domain of LANA, L1132P, destroyed binding to GSK-3. The N-terminal LANA interaction domain was found to mediate interaction by acting as a substrate for GSK-3. GSK-3(R96A), a priming pocket mutant, did not bind to LANA, suggesting that LANA was a primed GSK-3 substrate. Phosphorylation of endogenous LANA precipitated from primary effusion lymphoma cells was inhibited by the GSK-3 inhibitor LiCl. GST-LANA(1-340) was phosphorylated by GSK-3, and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and casein kinase I functioned as priming kinases in vitro. Mutation of consensus GSK-3 sites revealed that sites between LANA amino acids 219 and 268 were important for GSK-3 phosphorylation. Immunoprecipitation assays revealed that loss of GSK-3 phosphorylation of this N-terminal domain correlated with loss of GSK-3 interaction. Although LANA-associated GSK-3 actively phosphorylated LANA, GSK-3 coprecipitated with LANA was unable to phosphorylate an exogenous peptide substrate. LANA sequestration of GSK-3 may explain the ability of KSHV-infected cells to tolerate increased levels of nuclear GSK-3.
The role of Wnt signaling in embryonic development and stem cell maintenance is well established and aberrations leading to the constitutive up-regulation of this pathway are frequent in several types of human cancers. Upon ligand-mediated activation, Wnt receptors promote the stabilization of β-catenin, which translocates to the nucleus and binds to the T-cell factor/lymphoid enhancer factor (TCF/LEF) family of transcription factors to regulate the expression of Wnt target genes. When not bound to β-catenin, the TCF/LEF proteins are believed to act as transcriptional repressors. Using a specific lentiviral reporter, we identified hematopoietic tumor cells displaying constitutive TCF/LEF transcriptional activation in the absence of β-catenin stabilization. Suppression of TCF/LEF activity in these cells mediated by an inducible dominant-negative TCF4 (DN-TCF4) inhibited both cell growth and the expression of Wnt target genes. Further, expression of TCF1 and LEF1, but not TCF4, stimulated TCF/LEF reporter activity in certain human cell lines independently of β-catenin. By a complementary approach in vivo, TCF1 mutants, which lacked the ability to bind to β-catenin, induced Xenopus embryo axis duplication, a hallmark of Wnt activation, and the expression of the Wnt target gene Xnr3. Through generation of different TCF1-TCF4 fusion proteins, we identified three distinct TCF1 domains that participate in the β-catenin-independent activity of this transcription factor. TCF1 and LEF1 physically interacted and functionally synergized with members of the activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2) family of transcription factors. Moreover, knockdown of ATF2 expression in lymphoma cells phenocopied the inhibitory effects of DN-TCF4 on the expression of target genes associated with the Wnt pathway and on cell growth. Together, our findings indicate that, through interaction with ATF2 factors, TCF1/LEF1 promote the growth of hematopoietic malignancies in the absence of β-catenin stabilization, thus establishing a new mechanism for TCF1/LEF1 transcriptional activity distinct from that associated with canonical Wnt signaling.
The Wnt signaling pathway plays a crucial role during embryonic development and in the maintenance of stem cell populations in various organs and tissues. Aberrant activation of this pathway through different mechanisms participates in the onset and progression of several types of human cancers. In the presence of Wnt ligands, stabilized β-catenin acts as a transcriptional activator to induce the expression of target genes through binding to the TCF/LEF family of transcription factors. Using in vitro and in vivo models, we show that TCF/LEF proteins can be activated independently of β-catenin through cooperation with members of the ATF2 subfamily of transcription factors. This novel alternative mechanism of TCF/LEF activation is constitutively up-regulated in certain hematopoietic tumor cells, where it regulates the expression of TCF/LEF target genes and promotes cell growth.
The Wnt signaling pathway plays a major role in development, and upon deregulation it is implicated in neoplasia. The hallmark of the canonical Wnt signal is the protection of β-catenin from ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation induced by glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β inhibition. The stabilized β-catenin translocates to the nucleus where it binds to T-cell factor/lymphoid enhancer factor (TCF/LEF) transcription factors, activating the expression of Wnt target genes. In the absence of Wnt signal, TCF/LEF bind to Groucho (Gro)/TLE corepressors and repress Wnt target genes. Gro/TLE bind also to Engrailed (En) transcription factors mediating En-repressive activity on En target genes. Here, we present data suggesting that En-1 serves also as a negative regulator of β-catenin transcriptional activity; however, its repressive effect is independent of Gro/TLE. Our data suggest that En-1 acts by destabilizing β-catenin via a proteasomal degradation pathway that is GSK-3β–independent. Moreover, because En-1-mediated β-catenin degradation is also Siah independent, our data imply that En-1 exerts its repressive effect by a novel mechanism negatively controlling the level of β-catenin.
T-cell factor (Tcf)/lymphoid-enhancer factor (Lef) proteins are a structurally diverse family of deoxyribonucleic acid-binding proteins that have essential nuclear functions in Wnt/β-catenin signalling. Expression of Wnt/β-catenin target genes is highly dependent on context, but the precise role of Tcf/Lef family members in the generation and maintenance of cell-type-specific Wnt/β-catenin responses is unknown. Herein, we show that induction of a subset of Wnt/β-catenin targets in embryonic stem cells depends on Tcf1 and Tcf4, whereas other co-expressed Tcf/Lef family members cannot induce these targets. The Tcf1/Tcf4-dependent gene responses to Wnt are primarily if not exclusively mediated by C-clamp-containing Tcf1E and Tcf4E splice variants. A combined knockdown of Tcf1/Tcf4 abrogates Wnt-inducible transcription but does not affect the active chromatin conformation of their targets. Thus, the transcriptionally poised state of Wnt/β-catenin targets is maintained independent of Tcf/Lef proteins. Conversely, ectopically overexpressed Tcf1E cannot invade silent chromatin and fails to initiate expression of inactive Wnt/β-catenin targets even if repressive chromatin modifications are abolished. The observed non-redundant functions of Tcf1/Tcf4 isoforms in acute transcriptional activation demonstrated that the cell-type-specific complement of Tcf/Lef proteins is a critical determinant of context-dependent Wnt/β-catenin responses. Moreover, the apparent inability to cope with chromatin uncovers an intrinsic property of Tcf/Lef proteins that prevents false ectopic induction and ensures spatiotemporal stability of Wnt/β-catenin target gene expression.