Elucidating the interactions between the adhesive and transcriptional functions of β-catenin in normal and cancerous cells

Ingeborg M M van Leeuwen, Helen M. Byrne, Oliver E. Jensen, John R. King

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Wnt signalling is involved in a wide range of physiological and pathological processes. The presence of an extracellular Wnt stimulus induces cytoplasmic stabilisation and nuclear translocation of β-catenin, a protein that also plays an essential role in cadherin-mediated adhesion. Two main hypotheses have been proposed concerning the balance between β-catenin's adhesive and transcriptional functions: either β-catenin's fate is determined by competition between its binding partners, or Wnt induces folding of β-catenin into a conformation allocated preferentially to transcription. The experimental data supporting each hypotheses remain inconclusive. In this paper we present a new mathematical model of the Wnt pathway that incorporates β-catenin's dual function. We use this model to carry out a series of in silico experiments and compare the behaviour of systems governed by each hypothesis. Our analytical results and model simulations provide further insight into the current understanding of Wnt signalling and, in particular, reveal differences in the response of the two modes of interaction between adhesion and signalling in certain in silico settings. We also exploit our model to investigate the impact of the mutations most commonly observed in human colorectal cancer. Simulations show that the amount of functional APC required to maintain a normal phenotype increases with increasing strength of the Wnt signal, a result which illustrates that the environment can substantially influence both tumour initiation and phenotype. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)77-102
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2007


    • Adherens junction
    • APC mutation
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Crypt dynamics


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