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Title: Investigating the function of VANGL2 in intestinal homeostasis & disease
Author: Mellin, Ronan Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 3619
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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Introduction: Van Gogh-Like 2 (VANGL2) is a scaffolding planar cell polarity protein involved in non-canonical Wnt signalling. It has been shown to have crucial roles in regulating epithelial development and homeostasis. Moreover, VANGL2 has been implicated in human cancers, with increased expression and copy number amplification seen in several cancer contexts. Many related components within this pathway have also been linked to cancer development, with VANGL2 expression known to regulate factors involved in cell migration and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodelling in cell lines. These cellular processes tend to be erroneously activated in cancer. VANGL2 is known to inhibit the classical driver pathway of colorectal cancer (CRC), canonical, or β- catenin dependant, Wnt signalling, in CRC cell lines. The aim of this thesis is to determine the expression of VANGL2 in CRC, and to investigate how VANGL2 may act to regulate intestinal homeostasis and disease. Methods: Transcriptional verification of VANGL2 expression in the mouse intestine was carried out by quantitative Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (qRT-PCR), and transcripts localised within the murine colon using RNA-In Situ Hybridisation (RNAISH). Expression and localisation of the VANGL2 protein and related non-canonical Wnt signalling components was confirmed using immuno-histochemistry (IHC). Furthermore, using a combination of human Tissue Micro-Array (TMA), transcriptional data and genomic data, we determined an association between VANGL2 on tumour grade and disease-free survival. To functionally validate the effects of VANGL2 on colorectal biology, we used a model in which VANGL2 is selectively deleted from the colonic epithelium using Villin-CreERT Vangl2flox mouse lines. Using a combination of molecular biology methods, we identified the ECM as differentially regulated following VANGL2 modulation. To test the role of VANGL2 in colorectal cancer, we used a murine colorectal cancer model in which adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) is deleted from colonic epithelium resulting in the formation of cancer concurrently with deletion of Vangl2. We evaluated survival of these mice as well as tumour number and size. Tumour tissue was analysed using IHC, qRT-PCR and 3-Dimensional organoid culture. Results: Within this thesis I have illustrated that the murine colonic epithelium expresses Vangl2, and other components known to interact with VANGL2 including Vangl1, Wnt5A, and Protein Tyrosine Kinase 7 (Ptk7). I have also shown that VANGL2 is expressed within the human colonic epithelium. I go on to show that 9.2% of human CRC possesses VANGL2 transcriptional alterations which correlates with a worsened disease-free survival (DFS) rate among patients. Using IHC, I also show that higher grade CRC is associated with increased VANGL2 expression. In our murine cancer model, mice with single or dual-copy loss of VANGL2 were found to have a reduced number of colonic tumours, while maintaining similar tumour size. Investigations to identify how VANGL2 may have control of tumour initiation were carried out focussing on the ECM. I found that, contrary to what I have discovered in the healthy murine colon, tumours from VANGL2-deficient mice had increased transcription of the ECM markers Secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (Sparc) and Decorin (Dcn), as well as increased expression of the ECM regulators Matrix Metallopeptidase 9 (Mmp9) and Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinases 1 (Timp1). Changes in the ECM was also seen at the protein level, with increases in staining for the ECM components Col1 (Collagen, type I), and Laminin in VANGL2-deficient tissue. The ECM modulator Connective Tissue Growth Factor (Ctgf), is implicated in multiple cancers including CRC and is increased within VANGL2-deficient tumours at both the transcript and protein level, implicating Ctgf in increasing the ECM of these tumours.
Supervisor: Boulter, Luke ; Myant, Kevin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Wnt ; intestine ; colorectal cancer ; CRC ; Wnt signalling