Department of Surgery
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences
The stability and subcellular localization of beta-catenin, a protein that plays a major role in cell adhesion and proliferation, is tightly regulated by multiple signaling pathways. While aberrant activation of beta-catenin signaling has been implicated in cancers, the biochemical identity of transcriptionally active beta-catenin (ABC), commonly known as unphosphorylated serine 37 (S37) and threonine 41 (T41) beta-catenin, remains elusive. Our current study demonstrates that ABC transcriptional activity is influenced by phosphorylation of T120 by Protein Kinase D1 (PKD1). Whereas the nuclear beta-catenin from PKD1-low prostate cancer cell line C4-2 is unphosphorylated S37/T41/T120 with high transcription activity, the nuclear beta-catenin from PKD1-overexpressing C4-2 cells is highly phosphorylated at T120, S37 and T41 with low transcription activity, implying that accumulation of nuclear beta-catenin alone cannot be simply used as a read-out for Wnt activation. In human normal prostate tissue, the phosphorylated T120 beta-catenin is mainly localized to the trans-Golgi network (TGN, 22/30, 73%), and this pattern is significantly altered in prostate cancer (14/197, 7.1%), which is consistent with known down regulation of PKD1 in prostate cancer. These in vitro and in vivo data unveil a previously unrecognized post-translational modification of ABC through T120 phosphorylation by PKD1, which alters subcellular localization and transcriptional activity of beta-catenin. Our results support the view that beta-catenin signaling activity is regulated by spatial compartmentation and post-translational modifications and protein level of beta-catenin alone is insufficient to count signaling activity.