Wnt proteins prevent apoptosis of both uncommitted osteoblast progenitors and differentiated osteoblast by β-catenin-dependent and -independent signaling cascades involving Src/ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/AKT

Maria Almeida, Li Han, Teresita Bellido, Stavros C. Manolagas, Stavroula Kousteni

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320 Scopus citations


Genetic studies in humans and mice have revealed an important role of the Wnt signaling pathway in the regulation of bone mass, resulting from potent effects on the control of osteoblast progenitor proliferation, commitment, differentiation, and perhaps osteoblast apoptosis. To establish the linkage between Wnts and osteoblast survival and to elucidate the molecular pathways that link the two, we have utilized three cell models: the uncommitted bipotential C2C12 cells, the preosteoblastic cell line MC3T3-E1, and bone marrow-derived OB-6 osteoblasts. Serum withdrawal-induced apoptosis was prevented by the canonical Wnts (Wnt3a and Wnt1) and the noncanonical Wnt5a in all cell types. Wnt3a induced LRP5-independent transient phosphorylation and nuclear accumulation of ERKs and phosphorylation of Src and Akt. The anti-apoptotic effect of Wnt3a was abrogated by inhibitors of canonical Wnt signaling, as well as by inhibitors of MEK, Src, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), or Akt kinases, or by the addition of cycloheximide to the culture medium. Wnt3a-induced phosphorylation of GSK-3β and downstream activation of β-catenin-mediated transcription required ERK, PI3K, and Akt signaling. Wnt3a increased the expression of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 in an ERK-dependent manner. β-Catenin-mediated transcription was permissive for the anti-apoptotic actions of Wnt1 and Wnt3a but was dispensable for the anti-apoptotic action of Wnt5a. However, Src, ERKs, PI3K, and Akt kinases were required for the anti-apoptotic effects of Wnt5a. These results demonstrate for the first time that Wnt proteins, irrespective of their ability to stimulate canonical Wnt signaling, prolong the survival of osteoblasts and uncommitted osteoblast progenitors via activation of the Src/ERK and PI3K/Akt signaling cascades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41342-41351
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 16 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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