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Genes Dev. 2000 Jun 1;14(11):1319-31.

gamma-catenin is regulated by the APC tumor suppressor and its oncogenic activity is distinct from that of beta-catenin.

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  • 1Division of Medical Genetics and the Cancer Center, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 USA.


beta-Catenin and gamma-catenin (plakoglobin), vertebrate homologs of Drosophila armadillo, function in cell adhesion and the Wnt signaling pathway. In colon and other cancers, mutations in the APC tumor suppressor protein or beta-catenin's amino terminus stabilize beta-catenin, enhancing its ability to activate transcription of Tcf/Lef target genes. Though beta- and gamma-catenin have analogous structures and functions and like binding to APC, evidence that gamma-catenin has an important role in cancer has been lacking. We report here that APC regulates both beta- and gamma-catenin and gamma-catenin functions as an oncogene. In contrast to beta-catenin, for which only amino-terminal mutated forms transform RK3E epithelial cells, wild-type and several amino-terminal mutated forms of gamma-catenin had similar transforming activity. gamma-Catenin's transforming activity, like beta-catenin's, was dependent on Tcf/Lef function. However, in contrast to beta-catenin, gamma-catenin strongly activated c-Myc expression and c-Myc function was crucial for gamma-catenin transformation. Our findings suggest APC mutations alter regulation of both beta- and gamma-catenin, perhaps explaining why the frequency of APC mutations in colon cancer far exceeds that of beta-catenin mutations. Elevated c-Myc expression in cancers with APC defects may be due to altered regulation of both beta- and gamma-catenin. Furthermore, the data imply beta- and gamma-catenin may have distinct roles in Wnt signaling and cancer via differential effects on downstream target genes.

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