MUC4 is negatively regulated through the Wnt/β-catenin pathway via the notch effector hath1 in colorectal cancer

Priya Pai, Satyanarayana Rachagani, Punita Dhawan, Yuri M. Sheinin, Muzafar A Macha, Asif Khurshid Qazi, Seema Chugh, Moorthy P. Ponnusamy, Kavita Mallya, Ramesh Pothuraju, Surinder K. Batra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


MUC4 is a transmembrane mucin lining the normal colonic epithelium. The aberrant/de novo over-expression of MUC4 is well documented in malignancies of the pancreas, ovary and breast. However, studies have reported the loss of MUC4 expression in the majority of colorectal cancers (CRCs). A MUC4 promoter analysis showed the presence of three putative TCF/LEF sites, implying a possible regulation by the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, which has been shown to drive CRC progression. Thus, the objective of our study was to determine whether MUC4 is regulated by β-catenin in CRC. We first knocked down (KD) β-catenin in three CRC cell lines; LS180, HCT-8 and HCT116, which resulted in increased MUC4 transcript and MUC4 protein. Additionally, the overexpression of stabilized mutant β-catenin in LS180 and HCT-8 resulted in a decrease in MUC4 expression. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) of mouse colon tissue harboring tubular adenomas and high grade dysplasia showed dramatically reduced Muc4 in lesions relative to adjacent normal tissue, with increased cytosolic/nuclear β-catenin. Luciferase assays with the complete MUC4 promoter construct p3778 showed increased MUC4 promoter luciferase activity in the absence of β-catenin (KD). Mutation of all three putative TCF/LEF sites showed that MUC4 promoter luciferase activity was increased relative to the un-mutated promoter. Interestingly, it was observed that MUC4 expressing CRC cell lines also expressed high levels of Hath1, a transcription factor repressed by both active Wnt/β-catenin and Notch signaling. The KD of β-catenin and/or treatment with a Notch γ-secretase inhibitor, Dibenzazepine (DBZ) resulted in increased Hath1 and MUC4 in LS180, HCT-8 and HCT116. Furthermore, overexpression of Hath1 in HCT-8 and LS180 caused increased MUC4 transcript and MUC4 protein. Taken together, our results indicate that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway suppresses the Notch pathway effector Hath1, resulting in reduced MUC4 in CRC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-168
Number of pages15
JournalGenes and Cancer
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - May 2016


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Hath1
  • MUC4
  • Wnt
  • β-catenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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