Inhibition of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway by apolipoprotein E4 in PC12 cells


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Ferdinando Nicoletti, MD, Department of Human Physiology and Pharmacology, P. le Aldo Moro, 5, 00185 Roma, Italy. E-mail:


We examined the effect of the three human isoforms of apolipoprotein E (ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4) on the canonical Wnt signaling pathway in undifferentiated PC12 cells. Addition of recombinant ApoE4 reduced Wingless-Int7a-stimulated gene expression at concentrations of 80 and 500 nm. Recombinant ApoE2 and ApoE3 were virtually inactive. Recombinant ApoE4 also inhibited Wnt signaling when combined with very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs) or in cells over-expressing the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein, LRP6. In contrast, the enforced expression of LRP5 unmasked an inhibition by ApoE2 and ApoE3, which, however, were less effective than ApoE4 in inhibiting Wnt signaling. We also transfected PC12 cells with constructs encoding for the three human ApoE isoforms to examine whether endogenously expressed ApoE isoforms could modulate the Wnt pathway. Under these conditions, all three ApoE isoforms were able to inhibit Wnt signaling, although ApoE4 showed the greatest efficacy. Only the conditioned medium collected from cultures transfected with ApoE4 induced a significant inhibition of Wnt7a-stimulated gene expression, confirming that ApoE4 has an extracellular action that is not shared by the other ApoE isoforms. We conclude that ApoE4 behaves as an inhibitor of the canonical Wnt pathway in a context-independent manner.