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Mol Cancer Res. 2013 Mar;11(3):207-18. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-12-0670. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Nuclear expression of β-catenin promotes RB stability and resistance to TNF-induced apoptosis in colon cancer cells.

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Moores UCSD Cancer Center, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α promotes tumor development under chronic inflammation. Because TNF also activates caspase-8, selective inhibition of TNF-induced extrinsic apoptosis would be required for inflammation-associated tumor growth. In a mouse model of inflammation-associated colon carcinogenesis, we found nuclear expression of β-catenin in tumors of wild-type, but not mutant, mice that were made resistant to TNF-induced apoptosis by a germline mutation blocking caspase cleavage of the retinoblastoma (RB) protein, despite similar frequencies of β-catenin exon-3 mutations in these two genetic backgrounds. TNF-induced apoptosis was also attenuated in human colon cancer cell lines with genetically activated β-catenin. However, we found that HCT116 cells, which contain an activated allele of β-catenin but do not express nuclear β-catenin, were sensitive to TNF-induced apoptosis. In HCT116 cells, TNF stimulated efficient RB cleavage that preceded chromatin condensation. In contrast, TNF did not induce RB cleavage in colon cancer cells expressing nuclear β-catenin and these cells could be sensitized to basal and/or TNF-induced apoptosis by the knockdown of β-catenin or RB. In the apoptosis-resistant colon cancer cells, knockdown of β-catenin led to a reduction in the RB protein without affecting RB mRNA. Furthermore, ectopic expression of the caspase-resistant, but not the wild-type, RB re-established resistance to TNF-induced caspase activation in colon cancer cells without β-catenin. Together, these results suggest that nuclear β-catenin-dependent RB stabilization suppresses TNF-induced apoptosis in caspase-8-positive colon cancer cells.

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