Examination of effects of GSK3β phosphorylation, β-catenin phosphorylation, and β-catenin degradation on kinetics of Wnt signaling pathway using computational method

Abstract Background Recent experiments have explored effects of activities of kinases other than the well-studied GSK3β, in wnt pathway signaling, particularly at the level of β-catenin. It has also been found that the kinase PKA attenuates β-catenin degradation. However, the effects of these kinases on the level and degradation of β-catenin and the resulting downstream transcription activity remain to be clarified. Furthermore, the effect of GSK3β phosphorylation on the β-catenin level has not been examined computationally. In the present study, the effects of phosphorylation of GSK3β and of phosphorylations and degradation of β-catenin on the kinetics of the wnt signaling pathway were examined computationally. Methods The well-known computational Lee-Heinrich kinetic model of the wnt pathway was modified to include these effects. The rate laws of reactions in the modified model were solved numerically to examine these effects on β-catenin level. Results The computations showed that the β-catenin level is almost linearly proportional to the phosphorylation activity of GSK3β. The dependence of β-catenin level on the phosphorylation and degradation of free β-catenin and downstream TCF activity can be analyzed with an approximate, simple function of kinetic parameters for added reaction steps associated with effects examined, rationalizing the experimental results. Conclusion The phosphorylations of β-catenin by kinases other than GSK3β involve free unphorphorylated β-catenin rather than GSK3β-phosphorylated β-catenin*. In order to account for the observed enhancement of TCF activity, the β-catenin dephosphorylation step is essential, and the kinetic parameters of β-catenin phosphorylation and degradation need to meet a condition described in the main text. These findings should be useful for future experiments.
Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling. 2009 Jul 22;6(1):13