R-Spondins 2 and 3 Are Overexpressed in a Subset of Human Colon and Breast Cancers

Caitlin B. Conboy, German L. Velez-Reyes, Susan K. Rathe, Juan E. Abrahante, Nuri A. Temiz, Michael B. Burns, Reuben S. Harris, Timothy K. Starr, David A. Largaespada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Wnt signaling is activated in many cancer types, yet targeting the canonical Wnt pathway has been challenging for cancer therapy. The pathway might be effectively targeted at many levels depending on the mechanism by which it has become hyperactive. Recently, mouse genetic screens have found that R-spondins (RSPOs) act as oncogenes. Evidence includes recurrent genomic rearrangements that led to increased RSPO2 or RSPO3 expression in human colorectal adenocarcinomas, exclusive of APC mutations. RSPOs modulate Wnt signaling to promote epithelial cell proliferation and survival. These secreted proteins modulate Wnt signaling by binding to G-coupled receptors LGR4/5/6, ultimately inhibiting frizzled membrane clearance by RNF43 and ZNRF3. They also exert their function independent of leucine-rich repeat-containing, G protein-coupled receptors (LGRs) by binding to ZNRF3 and RNF43. This results in increased β-catenin concentration that, after translocation to the nucleus, acts as a transcriptional coactivator of genes necessary for proliferation and cell survival. In this article, we aimed to identify the role of RSPOs in colon and breast cancers by using in silico and in vitro studies. We found that expression of RSPO2 and RSPO3 at high levels characterized a subset of colorectal cancers (CRCs). RSPO2 expression was found to characterize a subset of triple-negative breast cancers. In both instances, increased expression of RSPOs was associated with an activated Wnt signaling gene expression profile. Furthermore, knockdown of RSPO2 decreased Wnt signaling and proliferation in human breast cancer cells. Our findings show and confirm that RSPO2 and RSPO3 expression is upregulated in a subset of colorectal adenocarcinomas and breast cancers and that both are attractive druggable oncoprotein targets against such cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-79
Number of pages10
JournalDNA and Cell Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grants to C.B.C. (T32 GM008244, F30 CA171547), G.L.V.-R. (T32 GM008244, T32 HL007741), D.A.L. (R01 CA134759, R01 CA113636), T.K.S. (5R00CA151672-03, P30-CA77598, Mezin-Koats Colon Cancer Research Fund, and ACS PF-06-282-01-MGO).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2021, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers 2021.


  • RSPO2
  • breast cancer
  • colon cancer
  • oncogenic expression


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