Wnt pathway deregulation is a common characteristic of many cancers. But only Colorectal Cancer predominantly harbours mutations in APC, whereas other cancer types (hepatocellular carcinoma, solid pseudopapillary tumours of 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 a 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 significantly higher expression of the β-catenin binding partner E-cadherin. This increased expression is associated with a higher number of E-cadherin:β-catenin complexes at the membrane. Reduction of E-cadherin synergised with an activating mutation of β-catenin so there was now a rapid CPC phenotype within the colon and SI. Thus there is a threshold of β-catenin that is required to drive transformation and E-cadherin can act as a buffer to prevent β-catenin accumulation.
- Colorectal Cancer