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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 15;8(7):e69593. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069593. Print 2013.

Activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling increases apoptosis in melanoma cells treated with trail.

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Department of Medicine, the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA.


While the TRAIL pathway represents a promising therapeutic target in melanoma, resistance to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis remains a barrier to its successful adoption. Since the Wnt/β-catenin pathway has been implicated in facilitating melanoma cell apoptosis, we investigated the effect of Wnt/β-catenin signaling on regulating the responses of melanoma cells to TRAIL. Co-treatment of melanoma cell lines with WNT3A-conditioned media and recombinant TRAIL significantly enhanced apoptosis compared to treatment with TRAIL alone. This apoptosis correlates with increased abundance of the pro-apoptotic proteins BCL2L11 and BBC3, and with decreased abundance of the anti-apoptotic regulator Mcl1. We then confirmed the involvement of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway by demonstrating that siRNA-mediated knockdown of an intracellular β-catenin antagonist, AXIN1, or treating cells with an inhibitor of GSK-3 also enhanced melanoma cell sensitivity to TRAIL. These studies describe a novel regulation of TRAIL sensitivity in melanoma by Wnt/β-catenin signaling, and suggest that strategies to enhance Wnt/β-catenin signaling in combination with TRAIL agonists warrant further investigation.

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