The ligand-activated transcription factor aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) regulates cellular detoxification, proliferation and immune evasion in a range of cell types and tissues, including cancer cells. In this study, we used RNA-sequencing to identify the signature of the AHR target genes regulated by the pollutant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) and the endogenous ligand kynurenine (Kyn), a tryptophan-derived metabolite. This approach identified a signature of six genes (CYP1A1, ALDH1A3, ABCG2, ADGRF1 and SCIN) as commonly activated by endogenous or exogenous ligands of AHR in multiple colon cancer cell lines. Among these, the actin-severing protein scinderin (SCIN) was necessary for cell proliferation; SCIN downregulation limited cell proliferation and its expression increased it. SCIN expression was elevated in a subset of colon cancer patient samples, which also contained elevated β-catenin levels. Remarkably, SCIN expression promoted nuclear translocation of β-catenin and activates the WNT pathway. Our study identifies a new mechanism for adhesion-mediated signaling in which SCIN, likely via its ability to alter the actin cytoskeleton, facilitates the nuclear translocation of β-catenin.

This article has an associated First Person interview with the first authors of the paper.

You do not currently have access to this content.