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Nature. 2000 Aug 3;406(6795):527-32.

Distinct beta-catenins mediate adhesion and signalling functions in C. elegans.

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Department of Immunology, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In flies and vertebrates, Armadillo/beta-catenin forms a complex with Tcf/Lef-1 transcription factors, serving as an essential co-activator to mediate Wnt signalling. It also associates with cadherins to mediate adhesion. In Caenorhabditis elegans, three putative beta-catenin homologues have been identified: WRM-1, BAR-1 and HMP-2. WRM-1 and the Tcf homologue POP-1 mediate Wnt signalling by a mechanism that has challenged current views of the Wnt pathway. Here we show that BAR-1 is the only beta-catenin homologue that interacts directly with POP-1. BAR-1 mediates Wnt signalling by forming a BAR-1/POP-1 bipartite transcription factor that activates expression of Wnt target genes such as the Hox gene mab-5. HMP-2 is the only beta-catenin homologue that interacts with the single cadherin of C. elegans, HMR-1. We conclude that a canonical Wnt pathway exists in C. elegans. Furthermore, our analysis shows that the functions of C. elegans beta-catenins in adhesion and in signalling are performed by separate proteins.

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