Inhibition by chondroitin sulfate E can specify functional Wnt/beta-catenin signaling thresholds in NIH3T3 fibroblasts

Willis, C. M.; Kluppel, M.

J Biol Chem. 2012 Aug 24; 287(44):37042-56


Aberrant activation of the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway is frequently associated with human disease, including cancer, and thus represents a key therapeutic target. However, Wnt/beta-catenin signaling also plays critical roles in many aspects of normal adult tissue homeostasis. The identification of mechanisms and strategies to selectively inhibit the disease-related functions of Wnt signaling, while preserving normal physiological functions, is in its infancy. Here, we report the identification of exogenous chondroitin sulfate-E (CS-E) as an inhibitor of specific molecular and biological outcomes of Wnt3a signaling in NIH3T3 fibroblasts. We demonstrate that CS-E can decrease Wnt3a signaling through the negative regulation of LRP6 receptor activation. However, this inhibitory effect of CS-E only affected Wnt3a-mediated induction, but not repression, of target gene expression. We went on to identify a critical Wnt3a signaling threshold that differentially affects target gene induction versus repression. This signaling threshold also controlled the effects of Wnt3a on proliferation and serum starvation-induced apoptosis. Limiting Wnt3a signaling to this critical threshold, either by CS-E treatment or by ligand dilution, interfered with Wnt3a-mediated stimulation of proliferation but did not impair Wnt3a-mediated reduction of serum starvation-induced apoptosis. Treatment with pharmacological inhibitors demonstrated that both induction and repression of Wnt3a target genes in NIH3T3 cells require the canonical Wnt/beta-catenin signaling cascade. Our data establish the feasibility of selective inhibition of Wnt/beta-catenin transcriptional programs and biological outcomes through the exploitation of intrinsic signaling thresholds.

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