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Dev Biol. 2000 Jul 15;223(2):441-8.

A mode of regulation of beta-catenin signaling activity in Xenopus embryos independent of its levels.

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Cellular Biochemistry and Biophysics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, 10021, USA.


The signaling activity of beta-catenin is thought to be regulated by phosphorylation of a cluster of N-terminal serines, putative sites for GSK3beta. In the prevailing model in the literature, GSK3beta-dependent phosphorylation of these sites targets beta-catenin for ubiquitin-mediated degradation. Wnt signaling inhibits GSK3beta activity and this blocks degradation, allowing beta-catenin to accumulate and signal. We show here that beta-catenin activity is not regulated solely by protein stability. Mutations in the putative GSK3beta phosphorylation sites of beta-catenin enhance its signaling activity, but this cannot be accounted for by accumulation of either total or cadherin-free protein. Instead, the mutant protein has a threefold higher specific activity than the wild type both in vivo and in an in vitro signaling assay. We conclude that the N-terminal serines convey a layer of regulation upon beta-catenin signaling in addition to the effects these sites exert upon protein stability.

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