R-spondins engage heparan sulfate proteoglycans to potentiate WNT signaling.
Dubey R., van Kerkhof P., Jordens I., Malinauskas T., Pusapati GV., McKenna JK., Li D., Carette JE., Ho M., Siebold C., Maurice M., Lebensohn AM., Rohatgi R.
R-spondins (RSPOs) amplify WNT signaling during development and regenerative responses. We previously demonstrated that RSPOs 2 and 3 potentiate WNT/β-catenin signaling in cells lacking leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptors (LGRs) 4, 5 and 6 (Lebensohn and Rohatgi, 2018). We now show that heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) act as alternative co-receptors for RSPO3 using a combination of ligand mutagenesis and ligand engineering. Mutations in RSPO3 residues predicted to contact HSPGs impair its signaling capacity. Conversely, the HSPG-binding domains of RSPO3 can be entirely replaced with an antibody that recognizes heparan sulfate (HS) chains attached to multiple HSPGs without diminishing WNT-potentiating activity in cultured cells and intestinal organoids. A genome-wide screen for mediators of RSPO3 signaling in cells lacking LGRs 4, 5 and 6 failed to reveal other receptors. We conclude that HSPGs are RSPO co-receptors that potentiate WNT signaling in the presence and absence of LGRs.