Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)



First Advisor

Mustafa Khokha


Wnt signaling is essential for embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis; mutations in Wnt pathway components are major drivers of multiple diseases especially cancer. β-catenin is a key effector in this pathway that translocates into the nucleus and activates Wnt responsive genes. However, due to our lack of understanding of β-catenin nuclear transport, therapeutic modulation of Wnt signaling has been challenging. Here, we took an unconventional approach to address this long-standing question by exploiting a heterologous model system, the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which contains a conserved nuclear transport machinery. In contrast to prior work, we demonstrate that β-catenin accumulates in the nucleus in a Ran dependent manner, suggesting the use of a nuclear transport receptor (NTR). Indeed, a systematic and conditional inhibition of NTRs revealed that only Kap104, the orthologue of Kap-β2/Transportin-1 (TNPO1), was required for β-catenin nuclear import. We further demonstrate direct binding between TNPO1 and β-catenin that is mediated by a conserved amino acid sequence that resembles a PY NLS. Finally, using Xenopus secondary axis and TCF/LEF reporter assays, we demonstrate that our results in yeast can be directly translated to vertebrates. By elucidating the NLS in β-catenin and its cognate NTR, our study provides new therapeutic targets for a host of human diseases caused by excessive Wnt signaling. Indeed, we demonstrate that a small chimeric peptide designed to target TNPO1 can reduce Wnt signaling as a first step towards therapeutics.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access