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Oncogene. 2008 Feb 7;27(7):966-75. Epub 2007 Aug 13.

A role for iron in Wnt signalling.

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  • 1CRUK Institute for Cancer Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.


There is an emerging body of evidence implicating iron in carcinogenesis and in particular colorectal cancer, but whether this involves Wnt signalling, a major oncogenic signalling pathway has not been studied. We aimed to determine the effect of iron loading on Wnt signalling using mutant APC (Caco-2 and SW480) and wild-type APC (HEK-293 and human primary fibroblasts) containing cell lines. Elevating cellular iron levels in Caco-2 and SW480 cells caused increased Wnt signalling as indicated by increased TOPFLASH reporter activity, increased mRNA expression of two known targets, c-myc and Nkd1, and increased cellular proliferation. In contrast wild-type APC and beta-catenin-containing lines, HEK 293 and human primary fibroblasts were not responsive to iron loading. This was verified in SW480 cells that no longer induced iron-mediated Wnt signalling when transfected with wild-type APC. The cell line LS174T, wild type for APC but mutant for beta-catenin, was also responsive suggesting that the role of iron is to regulate beta-catenin. Furthermore, we show that E-cadherin status has no influence on iron-mediated Wnt signalling. We thus speculate that excess iron could exacerbate tumorigenesis in the background of APC loss, a common finding in cancers.

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