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PLoS One. 2008 May 14;3(5):e2186. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002186.

Regulation of epithelial branching morphogenesis and cancer cell growth of the prostate by Wnt signaling.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, California, United States of America.


Although Wnt signaling has been shown to be important for embryonic morphogenesis and cancer pathogenesis of several tissues, its role in prostatic development and tumorigenesis is not well understood. Here we show that Wnt signaling regulated prostatic epithelial branching morphogenesis and luminal epithelial cell differentiation in developing rat prostate organ cultures. Specifically, Wnt signaling regulated the proliferation of prostate epithelial progenitor cells. Assessment of the expression levels of a Wnt pathway transcriptional target gene, Axin2, showed that the Wnt pathway was activated in the developing prostate, but was down-regulated in the adult. Castration resulted in an upregulation of Axin2 whereas androgen replacement resulted in a down regulation of Axin2. Such dynamic changes of Wnt activity was also confirmed in a BAT-gal transgenic mouse line in which beta-galactosidase reporter is expressed under the control of beta-catenin/T cell factor responsive elements. Furthermore, we evaluated the role of Wnt signaling in prostate tumorigenesis. Axin2 expression was found upregulated in the majority of human prostate cancer cell lines examined. Moreover, addition of a Wnt pathway inhibitor, Dickkopf 1 (DKK1), into the culture medium significantly inhibited prostate cancer cell growth and migration. These findings suggest that Wnt signaling regulates prostatic epithelial ductal branching morphogenesis by influencing cell proliferation, and highlights a role for Wnt pathway activation in prostatic cancer progression.

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