Role of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in liver metabolism and cancer

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2011 Jul;43(7):1021-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2009.09.001. Epub 2009 Sep 9.


Wnt/β-catenin signaling is known for its role in embryogenesis as well as carcinogenesis. In the liver, it plays many critical roles during hepatic development and regeneration, and its dysregulation is evident in aberrant hepatic growth during various liver tumors. Its chief cellular roles in the liver include regulation of processes of cell proliferation, apoptosis, oxidative stress and differentiation, which in turn contributes to hepatic growth, zonation, xenobiotic metabolism and other metabolic processes inherent to the liver. Most of these functions of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling are dictated through the highly temporal and tissue-specific or non-specific transcriptional targets of the pathway. In addition, some of the critical functions such as cell-cell adhesion and perhaps maintenance of various junctions that are critical from an epithelial cell biology perspective are also a function of β-catenin, which is the central component of the canonical Wnt pathway. Various animal models and clinical studies have demonstrated the spectra of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in liver health and disease. Thus therapeutic modulation of this pathway for improved hepatic health is inevitable in the future. The current review discusses the advances in our understanding of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling in liver physiology and pathology especially in hepatic metabolism and various tumors in adult liver and goes on to extrapolate the pre-clinical significance and possible translational implications of such findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Focal Nodular Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Liver* / cytology
  • Liver* / embryology
  • Liver* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • beta Catenin / metabolism*


  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin