Serine/threonine protein kinase SGK1 in glucocorticoid-dependent transdifferentiation of pancreatic acinar cells to hepatocytes

Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE24HH, UK.
Journal of Cell Science (Impact Factor: 5.43). 02/2011; 124(Pt 3):405-13. DOI: 10.1242/jcs.077503
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Elevated glucocorticoid levels result in the transdifferentiation of pancreatic acinar cells into hepatocytes through a process that requires a transient repression of WNT signalling upstream of the induction of C/EBP-β. However, the mechanism by which glucocorticoid interacts with WNT signalling is unknown. A screen of microarray data showed that the serine/threonine protein kinase SGK1 (serum- and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1) was markedly induced in the model B-13 pancreatic rat acinar cell line after glucocorticoid treatment (which converts them into hepatocyte-like 'B-13/H' cells) and this was confirmed at the level of mRNA (notably an alternatively transcribed SGK1C form) and protein. Knockdown of SGK1 using an siRNA designed to target all variant transcripts inhibited glucocorticoid-dependent transdifferentiation, whereas overexpression of the human C isoform (and also the human SGK1F isoform, for which no orthologue in the rat has been identified) alone - but not the wild-type A form - inhibited distal WNT signalling Tcf/Lef transcription factor activity, and converted B-13 cells into B-13/H cells. These effects were lost when the kinase functions of SGK1C and SGK1F were mutated. Inhibition of SGK1 kinase activity also inhibited glucocorticoid-dependent transdifferentiation. Expression of SGK1C and SGK1F resulted in the appearance of phosphorylated β-catenin, and recombinant SGK1 was shown to directly phosphorylate purified β-catenin in vitro in an ATP-dependent reaction. These data therefore demonstrate a crucial role for SGK1 induction in B-13 cell transdifferentiation to B-13/H hepatocytes and suggest that direct phosphorylation of β-catenin by SGK1C represents the mechanism of crosstalk between glucocorticoid and WNT signalling pathways.

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