Posted by: Dan | December 11, 2006

Wnt Signaling in Cancer and Metazoan Evolution

Briefly, Oncogene had a nice issue up last week on Wnt/beta-Catenin signaling in a number of areas of biology. Top two picks amongst the list:

  • Guder C, Philipp I, Lengfeld T, Watanabe H, Hobmayer B, Holstein TW. The Wnt code: cnidarians signal the way. Oncogene. 2006 Dec 4;25(57):7450-60.
  • Akiyama T, Kawasaki Y. Wnt signalling and the actin cytoskeleton. Oncogene. 2006 Dec 4;25(57):7538-44.

Abstracts below the fold:

Guder et al.:

Cnidarians are the simplest metazoans with a nervous system. They are well known for their regeneration capacity, which is based on the restoration of a signalling centre (organizer). Recent work has identified the canonical Wnt pathway in the freshwater polyp Hydra, where it acts in organizer formation and regeneration. Wnt signalling is also essential for cnidarian embryogenesis. In the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis 11 of the 12 known wnt gene subfamilies were identified. Different wnt genes exhibit serial and overlapping expression domains along the oral-aboral axis of the embryo (the ‘wnt code’). This is reminiscent of the hox code (cluster) in bilaterian embryogenesis that is, however, absent in cnidarians. It is proposed that the common ancestor of cnidarians and bilaterians invented a set of wnt genes that patterned the ancient main body axis. Major antagonists of Wnt ligands (e.g. Dkk 1/2/4) that were previously known only from chordates, are also present in cnidarians and exhibit a similar conserved function. The unexpectedly high level of genetic complexity of wnt genes evolved in early multi-cellular animals about 650 Myr ago and suggests a radical expansion of the genetic repertoire, concurrent with the evolution of multi-cellularity and the diversification of eumetazoan body plans.

And Akiyama and Kawasaki:

The tumour suppressor adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) is mutated in sporadic and familial colorectal tumours. APC binds to beta-catenin, a key component of the Wnt signalling pathway, and induces its degradation. In addition to this role, there is increasing evidence for additional roles of APC, including the organization of cytoskeletal networks. APC interacts with microtubules and accumulates at their plus ends in membrane protrusions. Also, it has been reported that APC is associated with the plasma membrane in an actin-dependent manner. Moreover, APC interacts with IQGAP1, an effector of Rac1 and Cdc42, and APC-stimulated guanine nucleotide exchange factor (Asef), a Rac1-specific guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF). IQGAP1 mediates association of APC with cortical actin in the leading edge of migrating cell and both proteins are required for cell polarization and directional migration. APC interacts with Asef and stimulates its activity, thereby regulating the actin cytoskeletal network, cell morphology, adhesion and migration. Truncated mutant APCs present in colorectal tumour cells activate Asef constitutively and contribute to their aberrant migratory properties, which may be important for adenoma formation as well as tumour progression to invasive malignancy.

I have little background on Wnt/beta-Catenin signaling, but it’s highly topical to topics of cell migration, development, and evolution of metazoan life – not to mention I probably won’t get to parsing it thoroughly – so no comments on it from me.


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