Androgens initiate a complex network of signals within the UGS that trigger prostate lineage commitment and bud formation. Given its contributions to organogenesis in other systems, we investigated a role for canonical Wnt signaling in prostate development. We developed a new method to achieve complete deletion of beta-catenin, the transcriptional coactivator required for canonical Wnt signaling, in early prostate development. Beta-catenin deletion abrogated canonical Wnt signaling and yielded prostate rudiments that exhibited dramatically decreased budding and failed to adopt prostatic identity. This requirement for canonical Wnt signaling was limited to a brief critical period during the initial molecular phase of prostate identity specification. Deletion of beta-catenin in the adult prostate did not significantly affect organ homeostasis. Collectively, these data establish that beta-catenin and Wnt signaling play key roles in prostate lineage specification and bud outgrowth.
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