Wnt pathway deregulation is a common characteristic of many cancers. Only colorectal cancer predominantly harbours mutations in APC, whereas other cancer types (hepatocellular carcinoma, solid pseudopapillary tumours of the pancreas) have activating mutations in β-catenin (CTNNB1). We have compared the dynamics and the potency of β-catenin mutations in vivo. Within the murine small intestine (SI), an activating mutation of β-catenin took much longer to achieve Wnt deregulation and acquire a crypt-progenitor cell (CPC) phenotype than Apc or Gsk3 loss. Within the colon, a single activating mutation of β-catenin was unable to drive Wnt deregulation or induce the CPC phenotype. This ability of β-catenin mutation to differentially transform the SI versus the colon correlated with higher expression of E-cadherin and a higher number of E-cadherin:β-catenin complexes at the membrane. Reduction in E-cadherin synergised with an activating mutation of β-catenin resulting in a rapid CPC phenotype within the SI and colon. Thus, there is a threshold of β-catenin that is required to drive transformation, and E-cadherin can act as a buffer to sequester mutated β-catenin.
Huels, D. J., Ridgway, R. A., Radulescu, S., Leushacke, M., Campbell, A. D., Biswas, S., … Sansom, O. J. (2015). E-cadherin can limit the transforming properties of activating -catenin mutations. The EMBO Journal, 34(18), 2321–2333. https://doi.org/10.15252/embj.201591739