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Neoplasia. 2008 Sep;10(9):1004-13.

Co-opted JNK/SAPK signaling in Wnt/beta-catenin-induced tumorigenesis.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Genetics, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, BOX 611, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Aberrant stimulation of the canonical Wnt pathway induces mammary tumorigenesis in mice. It has been well documented that two types of tumors, adenocarcinoma and adenocarcinoma with squamous metaplasia, develop in these mutants. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the induction of squamous transdifferentiation remains largely unknown. Here, we show that JNK/SAPK signaling plays an important role in Wnt-dependent mammary development and malignant transformation. The JNK/SAPK pathway is stimulated in pregnancy-mediated lobulo-alveolar morphogenesis, a process highly dependent on Wnt/beta-catenin signaling. Strong elevations of JNK/SAPK signaling are associated with squamous metaplasia of the Wnt-induced adenocarcinoma. Reconstitution of beta-catenin and JNK/SAPK signaling activities also promotes expression of the squamous cell marker in cultured epithelial cells. Furthermore, a synergistic activation of these two pathways can be identified in the malignant squamous cells of human endometrial and lung cancers. This is potentially a significant discovery in modern cancer therapy because of the effectiveness of an angiogenesis inhibitor, Avastin, for the treatment of adenocarcinoma, but not squamous cell carcinoma, in human lung cancers. Our finding may improve the usage of biomarkers to distinguish these two poorly differentiated tumor types, sharing similar histologic features.

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