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Genes Cells. 1998 Oct;3(10):659-70.

Cytoskeletal reorganization by soluble Wnt-3a protein signalling.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Setsunan University, Hirakata, Osaka 573-0101, Japan.



Wnt-3a is an intercellular signalling molecule that is involved in a variety of morphogenetic events. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying Wnt-3a signalling are poorly understood. We have sought to establish in vitro systems to assay the activity of this protein and investigate its biological roles.


We prepared mouse L cells transfected with Wnt-3a cDNA, and found that their beta-catenin protein level was up-regulated. When conditioned medium (CM) was collected from cultures of the transfectants and added to nontransfected L cells, the beta-catenin level of the latter was also increased. Approximately 50% of the Wnt-3a proteins synthesized by the transfectants were secreted into the CM in a soluble form. These secreted Wnt-3a proteins formed an activity gradient in the environment surrounding the transfectants. Then, we studied whether Wnt-3a had any effect on cellular behaviour in vitro. When the CM containing Wnt-3a (W3a-CM) was added to cultures of C57MG mammary epithelial cells, their morphology was altered to exhibit closer intercellular contacts. Immunostaining for various adhesion and cytoskeletal proteins showed that the actin-microfilamental system was re-organized by the W3a-CM treatment. It induced a directional alignment of actin stress fibres and other actin-associated proteins. Moreover, villin, localized only at the perinuclear regions in untreated C57MG cells, was re-distributed to the leading edges of the cells, co-localizing with F-actin, in the presence of Wnt-3a.


Our findings suggest that Wnt-3a protein, in the soluble form, can act to re-organize cytoskeletal structures.

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