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Sci Signal. 2013 Mar 5;6(265):ra14. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.2003398.

The small GTPase ARF6 stimulates β-catenin transcriptional activity during WNT5A-mediated melanoma invasion and metastasis.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


β-Catenin has a dual function in cells: fortifying cadherin-based adhesion at the plasma membrane and activating transcription in the nucleus. We found that in melanoma cells, WNT5A stimulated the disruption of N-cadherin and β-catenin complexes by activating the guanosine triphosphatase adenosine diphosphate ribosylation factor 6 (ARF6). Binding of WNT5A to the Frizzled 4-LRP6 (low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6) receptor complex activated ARF6, which liberated β-catenin from N-cadherin, thus increasing the pool of free β-catenin, enhancing β-catenin-mediated transcription, and stimulating invasion. In contrast to WNT5A, the guidance cue SLIT2 and its receptor ROBO1 inhibited ARF6 activation and, accordingly, stabilized the interaction of N-cadherin with β-catenin and reduced transcription and invasion. Thus, ARF6 integrated competing signals in melanoma cells, thereby enabling plasticity in the response to external cues. Moreover, small-molecule inhibition of ARF6 stabilized adherens junctions, blocked β-catenin signaling and invasiveness of melanoma cells in culture, and reduced spontaneous pulmonary metastasis in mice, suggesting that targeting ARF6 may provide a means of inhibiting WNT/β-catenin signaling in cancer.

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