A knock-in mouse model reveals roles for nuclear Apc in cell proliferation, Wnt signal inhibition and tumor suppression

Oncogene. 2012 May 10;31(19):2423-37. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.434. Epub 2011 Sep 26.


Mutation of the tumor suppressor adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) is considered an initiating step in the genesis of the vast majority of colorectal cancers. APC inhibits the Wnt-signaling pathway by targeting the proto-oncogene β-catenin for destruction by cytoplasmic proteasomes. In the presence of a Wnt signal, or in the absence of functional APC, β-catenin can serve as a transcription cofactor for genes required for cell proliferation such as cyclin-D1 and c-Myc. In cultured cells, APC shuttles between the nucleus and the cytoplasm, with nuclear APC implicated in the inhibition of Wnt target gene expression. Adopting a genetic approach to evaluate the functions of nuclear APC in the context of a whole organism, we generated a mouse model with mutations that inactivate the nuclear localization signals (NLSs) of Apc (Apc(mNLS)). Apc(mNLS/mNLS) mice are viable and fractionation of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) isolated from these mice revealed a significant reduction in nuclear Apc as compared with Apc(+/+) MEFs. The levels of Apc and β-catenin protein were not significantly altered in small intestinal epithelia from Apc(mNLS/mNLS) mice. Compared with Apc(+/+) mice, Apc(mNLS/mNLS) mice showed increased proliferation in epithelial cells from the jejunum, ileum and colon. These same tissues from Apc(mNLS/mNLS) mice showed more mRNA from three genes upregulated in response to canonical Wnt signal, c-Myc, axin-2 and cyclin-D1, and less mRNA from Hath-1, which is downregulated in response to Wnt. These observations suggest a role for nuclear Apc in the inhibition of canonical Wnt signaling and the control of epithelial proliferation in intestinal tissue. Furthermore, we found Apc(Min/+) mice, which harbor a mutation that truncates Apc, to have an increased polyp size and multiplicity if they also carry the Apc(mNLS) allele. Taken together, this analysis of the novel Apc(mNLS) mouse model supports a role for nuclear Apc in the control of Wnt target genes, intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and polyp formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein / genetics
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Intestinal Polyps / genetics
  • Intestinal Polyps / metabolism
  • Intestinal Polyps / pathology*
  • Mice*
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / genetics
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / metabolism
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics*
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein
  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • beta Catenin