Carcinogenesis 2013 Nov 12;34(11):2629-38. Epub 2013 Jun 12.
Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Whereas aberrant activation of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling underlies the majority of colorectal cancer cases, the contribution of non-canonical Wnt signaling is unclear. As enhanced expression of the most extensively studied non-canonical Wnt ligand WNT5A is observed in various diseases including colon cancer, WNT5A is gaining attention nowadays. Numerous in vitro studies suggest modulating capacities of WNT5A on proliferation, differentiation, migration and invasion, affecting tumor and non-mutant cells. However, a possible contribution of WNT5A to colorectal cancer remains to be elucidated. We have analyzed WNT5A expression in colorectal cancer profiling data sets, altered WNT5A expression in colon cancer cells and used our inducible Wnt5a transgenic mouse model to gain more insight into the role of WNT5A in intestinal cancer. We observed that increased WNT5A expression is associated with poor prognosis of colorectal cancer patients. WNT5A knockdown in human colon cancer cells caused reduced directional migration, deregulated focal adhesion site formation and reduced invasion, whereas Wnt5a administration promoted the directional migration of colon cancer cells. Despite these observed protumorigenic activities of WNT5A, the induction of Wnt5a expression in intestinal tumors of Apc1638N mice was not sufficient to augment malignancy or metastasis by itself. In conclusion, WNT5A promotes adhesion sites to form in a focal fashion and promotes the directional migration and invasion of colon cancer cells. Although these activities appear insufficient by themselves to augment malignancy or metastasis in Apc1638N mice, they might explain the poor colon cancer prognosis associated with enhanced WNT5A expression.