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Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Nov;57(11):1950-8. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201300155. Epub 2013 Jul 9.

The dietary terpene lupeol targets colorectal cancer cells with constitutively active Wnt/β-catenin signaling.

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Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA; Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA.



Aberrant activation of the Wingless-type mouse mammary tumor virus integration site family (Wnt)/β-catenin signaling pathway is the most common modification, and often considered, a hallmark of colorectal cancer (CRC). Typically in this pathway the β-catenin translocates from the cytoplasm to the nucleus, where it functions as a transcription regulator of several genes that support tumor formation and progression. Thus, any agent that could attenuate the translocation of β-catenin could be extremely valuable against CRC, especially the tumors that exhibit constitutively active Wnt/β-catenin signaling.


Using human CRC cells that exhibit differential expression of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, we demonstrate that treatment of CRC cells with dietary triterpene lupeol results in a dose-dependent (i) decrease in cell viability, (ii) induction of apoptosis, (iii) decrease in colonogenic potential, (iv) decrease in β-catenin transcriptional activity, and (v) decrease in the expression of Wnt target genes. Most importantly lupeol was observed to inhibit the translocation of β-catenin from the cytoplasm to the nucleus. Importantly, all these effects of lupeol were restricted to cells that harbor constitutively active Wnt/β-catenin signaling while negligible effects were observed in cells that lack constitutively active Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Further, we also demonstrate that inhibition of Wnt signaling in cells with constitutive active Wnt/β-catenin results in loss of lupeol efficacy while inducing Wnt signaling sensitizes the cells to inhibitory effects of lupeol.


In summary, our data strongly advocate the efficacy of lupeol against CRC cells that exhibit constitutively active Wnt/β-catenin signaling.


Chemoprevention; Colorectal cancer; Dietary triterpene; Lupeol; Wnt; β catenin pathway

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