Discovery of novel small molecule activators of β-catenin signaling

Authors: Verkaar F, van der Stelt M, Blankesteijn WM, van der Doelen AA, Zaman GJ
Publisher/Year: PLoS One. 2011 Apr 29;6(4):e19185.
Pub Med ID/Journal ID: PMID:21559429


Wnt/β-catenin signaling plays a major role in embryonic development and adult stem cell maintenance. Reduced activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway underlies neurodegenerative disorders and aberrations in bone formation. Screening of a small molecule compound library with a β-galactosidase fragment complementation assay measuring β-catenin nuclear entry revealed bona fide activators of β-catenin signaling. The compounds stabilized cytoplasmic β-catenin and activated β-catenin-dependent reporter gene activity. Although the mechanism through which the compounds activate β-catenin signaling has yet to be determined, several key regulators of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, including glycogen synthase kinase 3 and Frizzled receptors, were excluded as the molecular target. The compounds displayed remarkable selectivity, as they only induced β-catenin signaling in a human osteosarcoma U2OS cell line and not in a variety of other cell lines examined. Our data indicate that differences in cellular Wnt/β-catenin signaling machinery can be exploited to identify cell type-specific activators of Wnt/β-catenin signaling.