Research ArticleMetabolism

Wnt Signaling Regulates Hepatic Metabolism

Science Signaling  01 Feb 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 158, pp. ra6
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2001249

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The contribution of the Wnt pathway has been extensively characterized in embryogenesis, differentiation, and stem cell biology but not in mammalian metabolism. Here, using in vivo gain- and loss-of-function models, we demonstrate an important role for Wnt signaling in hepatic metabolism. In particular, β-catenin, the downstream mediator of canonical Wnt signaling, altered serum glucose concentrations and regulated hepatic glucose production. β-Catenin also modulated hepatic insulin signaling. Furthermore, β-catenin interacted with the transcription factor FoxO1 in livers from mice under starved conditions. The interaction of FoxO1 with β-catenin regulated the transcriptional activation of the genes encoding glucose-6-phosphatase (G6Pase) and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), the two rate-limiting enzymes in hepatic gluconeogenesis. Moreover, starvation induced the hepatic expression of mRNAs encoding different Wnt isoforms. In addition, nutrient deprivation appeared to favor the association of β-catenin with FoxO family members, rather than with members of the T cell factor of transcriptional activators. Notably, in a model of diet-induced obesity, hepatic deletion of β-catenin improved overall metabolic homeostasis. These observations implicate Wnt signaling in the modulation of hepatic metabolism and raise the possibility that Wnt signaling may play a similar role in the metabolic regulation of other tissues.

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