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Cancer Res. 2005 Jul 15;65(14):6245-54.

Glypican-3 promotes the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma by stimulating canonical Wnt signaling.

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Division of Molecular and Cell Biology, Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre and Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Glypican-3 (GPC3) is a heparan sulfate proteoglycan that is bound to the cell membrane by a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol anchor. GPC3 is expressed by most hepatocellular carcinomas but not by normal hepatocytes and benign liver lesions. We report here that GPC3 stimulates the in vitro and in vivo growth of hepatocellular carcinoma cells by increasing autocrine/paracrine canonical Wnt signaling. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments showed that GPC3 is able to form complexes with Wnts, and cell-binding assays indicated that GPC3-expressing cells have an increased capacity to bind Wnt. Collectively, these results suggest that GPC3 stimulates Wnt activity by facilitating the interaction of this polypeptide with its signaling receptors. Surprisingly, in contrast to the current model that proposes that Wnt-glypican binding is mediated by the heparan sulfate chains, we found that the nonglycanated GPC3 core protein can form complexes with Wnts. Furthermore, we showed that the glycosaminoglycan chains are not required for the stimulatory effect on Wnt signaling and hepatocellular carcinoma growth.

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