Cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying planar cell polarity pathway contributions to cancer malignancy

Kacey VanderVorst, Jason Hatakeyama, Anastasia Berg, Hyun Lee, Kermit L. Carraway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


While the mutational activation of oncogenes drives tumor initiation and growth by promoting cellular transformation and proliferation, increasing evidence suggests that the subsequent re-engagement of largely dormant developmental pathways contributes to cellular phenotypes associated with the malignancy of solid tumors. Genetic studies from a variety of model organisms have defined many of the components that maintain epithelial planar cell polarity (PCP), or cellular polarity in the axis orthogonal to the apical-basal axis. These same components comprise an arm of non-canonical Wnt signaling that mediates cell motility events such as convergent extension movements essential to proper development. In this review, we summarize the increasing evidence that the Wnt/PCP signaling pathway plays active roles in promoting the proliferative and migratory properties of tumor cells, emphasizing the importance of subcellular localization of PCP components and protein-protein interactions in regulating cellullar properties associated with malignancy. Specifically, we discuss the increased expression of Wnt/PCP pathway components in cancer and the functional consequences of aberrant pathway activation, focusing on Wnt ligands, Frizzled (Fzd) receptors, the tetraspanin-like proteins Vangl1 and Vangl2, and the Prickle1 (Pk1) scaffold protein. In addition, we discuss negative regulation of the Wnt/PCP pathway, with particular emphasis on the Nrdp1 E3 ubiquitin ligase. We hypothesize that engagement of the Wnt/PCP pathway after tumor initiation drives malignancy by promoting cellular proliferation and invasiveness, and that the ability of Wnt/PCP signaling to supplant oncogene addiction may contribute to tumor resistance to oncogenic pathway-directed therapeutic agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
StateAccepted/In press - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Metastasis
  • Nrdp1
  • Planar cell polarity
  • Prickle
  • Vangl

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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