Wnt/β-catenin signaling is a primary pathway for stem cell maintenance during tissue renewal and a frequent target for mutations in cancer. Impaired Wnt receptor endocytosis due to loss of the ubiquitin ligase RNF43 gives rise to Wnt-hypersensitive tumors that are susceptible to anti-Wnt-based therapy. Contrary to this paradigm, we identify a class of RNF43 truncating cancer mutations that induce β-catenin-mediated transcription, despite exhibiting retained Wnt receptor downregulation. These mutations interfere with a ubiquitin-independent suppressor role of the RNF43 cytosolic tail that involves Casein kinase 1 (CK1) binding and phosphorylation. Mechanistically, truncated RNF43 variants trap CK1 at the plasma membrane, thereby preventing β-catenin turnover and propelling ligand-independent target gene transcription. Gene editing of human colon stem cells shows that RNF43 truncations cooperate with p53 loss to drive a niche-independent program for self-renewal and proliferation. Moreover, these RNF43 variants confer decreased sensitivity to anti-Wnt-based therapy. Our data demonstrate the relevance of studying patient-derived mutations for understanding disease mechanisms and improved applications of precision medicine.
RNF43/ZNRF3 loss predisposes to hepatocellular-carcinoma by impairing liver regeneration and altering the liver lipid metabolic ground-state
RNF43/ZNRF3 negatively regulate WNT signalling. Both genes are mutated in several types of cancers, however, their contribution to liver disease is unknown. Here we describe that hepatocyte-specific loss of Rnf43/Znrf3 results in steatohepatitis and in increase in unsaturated lipids, in the absence of dietary fat supplementation. Upon injury, Rnf43/Znrf3 deletion results in defective hepatocyte regeneration and liver cancer, caused by an imbalance between differentiation/proliferation. Using hepatocyte-, hepatoblast- and ductal cell-derived organoids we demonstrate that the differentiation defects and lipid alterations are, in part, cell-autonomous. Interestingly, ZNRF3 mutant liver cancer patients present poorer prognosis, altered hepatic lipid metabolism and steatohepatitis/NASH signatures. Our results imply that RNF43/ZNRF3 predispose to liver cancer by controlling the proliferative/differentiation and lipid metabolic state of hepatocytes. Both mechanisms combined facilitate the progression towards malignancy. Our findings might aid on the management of those RNF43/ZNRF3 mutated individuals at risk of developing fatty liver and/or liver cancer.