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The Story of Redundant Catenins & Their Roles in Cell-cell Adhesion in the Liver

Wickline, Emily (2013) The Story of Redundant Catenins & Their Roles in Cell-cell Adhesion in the Liver. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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β-Catenin is important in liver homeostasis as a part of Wnt signaling and adherens junctions (AJs); however, aberrant β-catenin activation is observed in a subset of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). Since therapeutic targeting of β-catenin in HCC is inevitable, it is important to investigate the implications of such interventions on AJs. We address this important issue both in vivo and in vitro. We observed that hepatocyte-specific β-catenin knockout (βKO) mice have no noticeable adhesive defects. We identified an increase in γ-catenin at AJs in βKO livers. We further observed that γ-catenin was unable to translocate to the nucleus in absence of β-catenin after partial hepatectomy in βKO mice. Since γ-catenin is a desmosomal protein, we next investigated if γ-catenin changes in βKOs were at the expense of desmosomes. We did not observe any differences on desmosomal structure or composition in βKO livers. Similarly, as some tight junction components are β-catenin target genes, we observed only minor changes in tight junctions, such that the function of the junctions was not affected in vivo. To further determine the role and regulation of γ-catenin in absence of β-catenin we established an in vitro model. Hep3B human HCC cells transfected with siRNA to β-catenin led to γ-catenin increase. Using this model we showed γ-catenin was unable to rescue decreased Wnt reporter activity. Scratch-wound assays showed β- and γ-catenin single knockdowns did not affect cell migration, but double knockdown significantly increased wound closure. Centrifugal assay for cell adhesion and hanging-drop assays, measuring hetero- and homotypic cell-cell interactions, showed significant decreases in adhesive strength with double knockdown only. Lastly, we showed the increased γ-catenin with β-catenin loss appears to be regulated by the serine/threonine phosphorylation of γ-catenin by protein kinase A, introducing the possibility of a catenin sensing mechanism. In conclusion, β-catenin loss is compensated by γ-catenin at AJs without negatively affecting other junctions; however, the function of β-catenin as part of the Wnt pathway remains unfulfilled by γ-catenin. Thus, proposed anti-β-catenin therapies for HCC may be able to target aberrant β-catenin in Wnt signaling specifically without negatively affect HCC prognosis, as long as γ-catenin is spared.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wickline, Emilyboyde@pitt.eduBOYDE
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDeFrances, Mariedefrancesmc@upmc.eduMCD14
Thesis AdvisorMonga, Satdarshan P. S.smonga@pitt.eduSMONGA
Committee MemberMurray, Sandrasmurray@pitt.eduSMURRAY
Committee MemberWells, Alanwellsa@msx.upmc.eduAHW6
Committee MemberWu, Chuanyuecarywu@pitt.eduCARYWU
Committee MemberStolz, Donna Bdstolz@pitt.eduDSTOLZ
Date: 31 January 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 January 2013
Approval Date: 31 January 2013
Submission Date: 28 January 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 171
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Medicine > Cellular and Molecular Pathology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, cancer, junctions, hepatocytes, adherens junction, Wnt signaling
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2013 13:12
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:40


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