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J Biol Chem. 2012 May 11;287(20):16454-66. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.362137. Epub 2012 Mar 20.

Both LRP5 and LRP6 receptors are required to respond to physiological Wnt ligands in mammary epithelial cells and fibroblasts.

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  • 1McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


A canonical Wnt signal maintains adult mammary ductal stem cell activity, and this signal requires the Wnt signaling reception, LRP5. However, previous data from our laboratory have shown that LRP5 and LRP6 are co-expressed in mammary basal cells and that LRP6 is active, leading us to question why LRP6 is insufficient to mediate canonical signaling in the absence of LRP5. Here, we show that at endogenous levels of LRP5 and LRP6 both receptors are required to signal in response to some Wnt ligands both in vitro (in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and mammary epithelial cells) and in vivo (in mammary outgrowths). This subgroup of canonical ligands includes Wnt1, Wnt9b, and Wnt10b; the latter two are expressed in mammary gland. In contrast, the ligand commonly used experimentally, Wnt3a, prefers LRP6 and requires just one receptor regardless of cellular context. When either LRP5 or LRP6 is overexpressed, signaling remains ligand-dependent, but the requirement for both receptors is abrogated (regardless of ligand type). We have documented an LRP5-6 heteromer using immiscible filtration assisted by surface tension (IFAST) immunoprecipitation. Together, our data imply that under physiological conditions some Wnt ligands require both receptors to be present to generate a canonical signal. We have designed a model to explain our results based on the resistance of LRP5-6 heteromers to a selective inhibitor of E1/2-binding Wnt-LRP6 interaction. These data have implications for stem cell biology and for the analysis of the oncogenicity of LRP receptors that are often overexpressed in breast tumors.

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