CANCER RESEARCH, vol.67, no.2, pp.482-491, 2007 (SCI-Expanded)
Wnt ligands have pleiotropic and context-specific roles in embryogenesis and adult tissues. Among other effects, certain Wnts stabilize the beta-catenin protein, leading to the ability of beta-catenin to activate T-cell factor (TCF)-mediated transcription. Mutations resulting in constitutive beta-catenin stabilization underlie development of several human cancers. Genetic studies in Drosophila highlighted the split ends (spen) gene as a positive regulator of Wnt-dependent signaling. We have assessed the role of SHARP a human homologue of spen, in Wnt/beta-catenin/TCF function in mammalian cells. We found that SHARP gene and protein expression is elevated in human colon and ovarian endometrioid adenocarcinomas and mouse colon adenomas and carcinomas carrying gene defects leading to beta-catenin dysregulation. When ectopically expressed, the silencing mediator for retinoid and thyroid receptors/histone deacetylase 1-associated repressor protein (SHARP) protein potently enhanced beta-catenin/TCF transcription of a model reporter gene and cellular target genes. Inhibition of endogenous SHARP function via RNA inhibitory (RNAi) approaches antagonized beta-catenin/TCF-mediated activation of target genes. The effect of SHARP on beta-catenin/TCF-regulated genes was mediated via a functional interaction between SHARP and TCF. beta-Catenin-dependent neoplastic transformation of RK3E cells was enhanced by ectopic expression of SHARP, and RNAi-mediated inhibition of endogenous SHARP in colon cancer cells inhibited their transformed growth. In toto, our findings implicate SHARP as an important positive regulator of Wnt signaling in cancers with beta-catenin dysregulation.