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Exp Cell Res. 2004 Jan 1;292(1):11-20.

A blockade in Wnt signaling is activated following the differentiation of F9 teratocarcinoma cells.

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Departments of Molecular Oncology and Molecular Biology, Genentech, Inc, South San Francisco, CA 94080-4918, USA.


Aberrant activation of the Wnt signaling pathway is a common event in human tumor progression. Wnt signaling has also been implicated in maintaining a variety of adult and embryonic stem cells by imposing a restraint to differentiation. To understand the effect of Wnt signaling on the differentiation of epithelial cells, we used mouse teratocarcinoma F9 cells as a model. The F9 cells can be differentiated into visceral endoderm (VE) resembling absorptive columnar epithelial cells. We performed comparative gene expression analysis on retinoic acid-differentiated and undifferentiated F9 cells and confirmed that markers of VE and intestinal epithelium were induced upon differentiation. The induction of these markers by retinoic acid was reduced in the presence of Wnt, although Wnt alone did not change their expression. This suggests that Wnt signaling inhibited the differentiation of F9 cells by altering gene expression. This inhibition was also reflected in the morphology of the F9 cells as their apical-basal polarity was disrupted by inclusion of Wnt during differentiation. These results support a model in which Wnt modulates the expression of genes required for normal terminal differentiation of the stem cells. However, it follows that progenitor cells must escape from Wnt signaling to attain the differentiated state. Accordingly, we found that differentiated F9 cells no longer responded to Wnt and that a blockade in Wnt signaling occurred upstream of Axin. Consistent with this, Wnt negative regulators, such as Dickkopf-1 and Disabled-2, were induced upon the differentiation of F9 cells. We propose that a similar system to produce Wnt inhibitors regulates homeostasis of certain stem cell compartments in vivo.

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