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Traffic. 2011 Aug;12(8):983-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2011.01207.x. Epub 2011 May 13.

Regulation of β-catenin nuclear dynamics by GSK-3β involves a LEF-1 positive feedback loop.

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Westmead Institute for Cancer Research, The University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute at Westmead Hospital, Westmead, New South Wales 2145, Australia.


Nuclear localization of β-catenin is integral to its role in Wnt signaling and cancer. Cellular stimulation by Wnt or lithium chloride (LiCl) inactivates glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), causing nuclear accumulation of β-catenin and transactivation of genes that transform cells. β-catenin is a shuttling protein; however, the mechanism by which GSK-3β regulates β-catenin nuclear dynamics is poorly understood. Here, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching assays were used to measure the β-catenin-green fluorescent protein dynamics in NIH 3T3 cells before and after GSK-3β inhibition. We show for the first time that LiCl and Wnt3a cause a specific increase in β-catenin nuclear retention in live cells and in fixed cells after detergent extraction. Moreover, LiCl reduced the rate of nuclear export but did not affect import, hence biasing β-catenin transport toward the nucleus. Interestingly, the S45A mutation, which blocks β-catenin phosphorylation by GSK-3β, did not alter nuclear retention or transport, implying that GSK-3β acts through an independent regulator. We compared five nuclear binding partners and identified LEF-1 as the key mediator of Wnt3a and LiCl-induced nuclear retention of β-catenin. Thus, Wnt stimulation triggered a LEF-1 positive feedback loop to enhance the nuclear chromatin-retained pool of β-catenin by 100-300%. These findings shed new light on regulation of β-catenin nuclear dynamics.

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