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Inhibition of WNT/β-catenin signaling under serum starvation and hypoxia induces adipocytic transdifferentiation in human leiomyoma cells

Fatty metamorphosis is an uncommon alteration in uterine leiomyoma (i.e., lipoleiomyoma), and the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain poorly understood. Because a conditional deletion of β-catenin, a major transducer of the canonical Wingless/integrated (WNT) pathway, in the developing mouse uterus can induce adipogenesis in the myometrium, it is hypothesized that inhibition of the WNT/β-catenin signaling may be also involved in the development of fat cells within uterine leiomyoma. In the current study, which was performed to address this point, intracytoplasmic lipid droplets were detectable in cultured human leiomyoma cells by treatment with a potent tankyrase inhibitor, XAV939, which antagonizes β-catenin, in a serum-starved culture medium without additional adipogenesis-inducing agents or supplements, and showed increasing accumulation in a time-dependent manner. In addition, the induction of fat cells was greatly enhanced under hypoxic conditions (i.e., 2.5% O2)—recapitulating the local in vivo situation of uterine leiomyoma—in comparison to that under normoxic conditions (i.e., 21% O2). The marker genes of differentiated fat cells such as ADIPOQ and PLIN were highly expressed in leiomyoma cells that were treated with XAV939 under hypoxia and serum starvation, whereas the immunohistochemical expression of desmin—a cytoskeletal protein representing smooth muscle differentiation—was downregulated, which appears in line with the switch in differentiation. The results of our study suggest that the inhibition of canonical WNT/β-catenin signaling under the stress due to hypoxia and serum starvation can initiate adipocytic transdifferentiation or metaplasia in human uterine leiomyoma cells, which is potentially related to the development of lipoleiomyoma.

Authors:   Hiroshi Harada; Yojiro Tsuda; Kei Yabuki; Eisuke Shiba; Kazuyoshi Uchihashi; Atsuji Matsuyama; Yoshihisa Fujino; Toru Hachisuga; Masanori Hisaoka
Journal:   Laboratory Investigation
Year:   2018
Pages:   1
DOI:   10.1038/s41374-017-0020-5
Publication date:   18-Jan-2018
Facts, background information, dossiers
  • cells
  • starvation
  • hypoxia
  • fat cells
  • adipogenesis
  • stress
  • genes
  • Expression
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