WIP1 phosphatase modulates the Hedgehog signaling by enhancing GLI1 function

S Pandolfi, V Montagnani, J Y Penachioni, M C Vinci, B Olivito, L Borgognoni, B Stecca
Oncogene 2013, 32 (40): 4737-47
The Hedgehog-GLI (HH-GLI) signaling plays a critical role in controlling growth and tissue patterning during embryogenesis and is implicated in a variety of human malignancies, including those of the skin. Phosphorylation events have been shown to regulate the activity of the GLI transcription factors, the final effectors of the HH-GLI signaling pathway. Here, we show that WIP1 (or PPM1D), an oncogenic phosphatase amplified/overexpressed in several types of human cancer, is a positive modulator of the HH signaling. Mechanistically, WIP1 enhances the function of GLI1 by increasing its transcriptional activity, nuclear localization and protein stability, but not of GLI2 nor GLI3. We also find that WIP1 and GLI1 are in a complex. Modulation of the transcriptional activity of GLI1 by WIP1 depends on the latter's phosphatase activity and, remarkably, does not require p53, a known WIP1 target. Functionally, we find that WIP1 is required for melanoma and breast cancer cell proliferation and self-renewal in vitro and melanoma xenograft growth induced by activation of the HH signaling. Pharmacological blockade of the HH pathway with the SMOOTHENED antagonist cyclopamine acts synergistically with inhibition of WIP1 in reducing growth of melanoma and breast cancer cells in vitro. Overall, our data uncover a role for WIP1 in modulating the activity of GLI1 and in sustaining cancer cell growth and cancer stem cell self-renewal induced by activation of the HH pathway. These findings open a novel therapeutic approach for human melanomas and, possibly, other cancer types expressing WIP1 and with activated HH pathway.

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