Toggling a conformational switch in Wnt/β-catenin signaling: Regulation of Axin phosphorylation

The phosphorylation state of Axin controls its scaffold function in two Wnt pathway protein complexes



The precise orchestration of two opposing protein complexes – one in the cytoplasm (β-catenin destruction complex) and the other at the plasma membrane (LRP6 signaling complex) – is critical for controlling levels of the transcriptional co-factor β-catenin, and subsequent activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signal transduction pathway. The Wnt pathway component Axin acts as an essential scaffold for the assembly of both complexes. How the β-catenin destruction and LRP6 signaling complexes are modulated following Wnt stimulation remains controversial. A recent study in Science by He and coworkers reveals an underlying logic for Wnt pathway control in which Axin phosphorylation toggles a switch between the active and inactive states. This mini-review focuses on this and two other recent studies that provide insight into the initial signaling events triggered by Wnt exposure. We emphasize regulation of the β-catenin destruction and LRP6 signaling complexes and propose a framework for future work in this area.