β-catenin is a dual function adhesion/transcriptional co-activator protein, and both functions are critical for normal tissue homeostasis. Since the transcriptional functions of β-catenin are more often implicated in various disease processes, there is much interest in the development and use of reagents to interrogate spatial and temporal evidence of β-catenin nuclear signaling in cells and tissues. An important study demonstrated that the signaling form of β-catenin is specifically unphosphorylated at residues S37 and T41, and suggested that this form exhibits a propensity for cytosolic/nuclear accumulation relative to the total pool of β-catenin.
We show that monoclonal antibody, 8E7, which recognizes the signaling form of β-catenin specifically unphosphorylated at S37 and T41 (Active B-Catenin, ABC), also cross-reacts with a widely expressed, variably accessible nuclear antigen that is not β-catenin. In cell types commonly used to study Wnt activation, this non-specific nuclear staining can be robust, obscuring the ABC signal. Definitive detection of nuclear localized ABC can be confirmed through an ability of classical cadherins to sequester ABC to cell junctions. In tissues, milder antigen retrieval methods can reduce the accessibility of mAb 8E7 to this cross-reacting nuclear antigen.
These findings reveal that interpretation of nuclear, signaling active β-catenin using monoclonal antibody 8E7 should be considered judiciously, and in conjunction with independent methods.
This article was reviewed by Frank J. T. Staal (nominated by Rachel Gerstein), Jyoti M. Sen (nominated by Avinash Bhandoola) and Manabu Sugai.