Use of a molecular genetic platform technology to produce human Wnt proteins reveals distinct local and distal signaling abilities

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58395. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058395. Epub 2013 Mar 13.


Functional and mechanistic studies of Wnt signaling have been severely hindered by the inaccessibility of bioactive proteins. To overcome this long-standing barrier, we engineered and characterized a panel of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines with inducible transgenes encoding tagged and un-tagged human WNT1, WNT3A, WNT5A, WNT7A, WNT11, WNT16 or the soluble Wnt antagonist Fzd8CRD, all integrated into an identical genomic locus. Using a quantitative real-time bioluminescence assay, we show that cells expressing WNT1, 3A and 7A stimulate Wnt/beta-catenin reporter activity, while the other WNT expressing cell lines interfere with this activation. Additionally, in contrast to WNT3A, WNT1 only exhibits activity when cell-associated, and thus only signals to neighboring cells. The reporter assay also revealed a rapid decline of Wnt activity at 37°C, indicating that Wnt activity is highly labile. These engineered cell lines will reduce the cost of making and purifying Wnt proteins and serve as a continuous, reliable and regulatable source of Wnts to research laboratories around the world.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics*
  • Wnt Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Wnt Proteins