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Cancer Res. 1999 Apr 15;59(8):1811-5.

Frequent mutation and nuclear localization of beta-catenin in anaplastic thyroid carcinoma.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Beta-catenin is an ubiquitously expressed cytoplasmic protein that has a crucial role in both E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion and as a downstream signaling molecule in the wingless pathway. Stabilization of beta-catenin followed by nuclear translocation and subsequent T-cell factor/lymphoid-enhancing factor-mediated transcriptional activation has been proposed as an important step in oncogenesis. Stabilization may occur through activating mutations in exon-3 at the phosphorylation sites for ubiquitination and degradation of beta-catenin. Immunohistochemical subcellular localization of beta-catenin and mutational analysis of exon-3 of the beta-catenin gene by single-strand conformational polymorphism followed by DNA sequencing was performed on 37 samples from 31 patients with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma. Immunofluorescent staining showed nuclear localization in 15 (42%) of the 36 samples examined. Nucleotide sequencing of mobility shifts detected by single-strand conformational polymorphism revealed somatic alterations in 19 (61%) of the 31 patients analyzed. We conclude that mutations in beta-catenin are common in anaplastic thyroid cancer and that they may activate transcription, as illustrated by frequent nuclear localization of the protein. These findings support the idea that beta-catenin acts as an oncogene and contributes to the highly aggressive behavior of this tumor.

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