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Cancer Metastasis Rev. 1999;18(2):231-46.

The control of beta-catenin and TCF during embryonic development and cancer.

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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK.


The Wnt signaling pathway functions reiteratively during animal development to control cell fate decisions. Inappropriate deregulation of this pathway leads to cancer in a number of tissues. The components that transduce the Wnt signal from the cell membrane to the cell nucleus are well conserved between vertebrates and Drosophila. A pivotal Wnt effector is the protein beta-catenin/Armadillo whose stability in the cytoplasm is low in unstimulated cells. Beta-catenin/Armadillo is targetted for proteasome-mediated degradation by a protein complex to which it binds. This complex consists of Axin, a putative scaffold protein which also binds to the tumor suppressor Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3)/Shaggy. Wnt signaling somehow inhibits the kinase activity of the quaternary complex. As a consequence, beta-catenin/Armadillo accumulates in the cytoplasm, translocates to the nucleus and becomes a transcriptional co-activator of T cell factor (TCF), the ultimate nuclear target of Wnt signaling. TCF is an architectural protein, mediating the assembly of multi-protein enhancer complexes. It cooperates with other enhancer-binding proteins and, together with beta-catenin/Armadillo, stimulates the transcription of Wnt target genes. Recently, repressors have been identified that prevent TCF from being active in the absence of Wnt signaling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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