Molecular hydrogen suppresses activated Wnt/β-catenin signaling

Molecular hydrogen (H2) is effective for many diseases. However, molecular bases of H2 have not been fully elucidated. Cumulative evidence indicates that H2 acts as a gaseous signal modulator. We found that H2 suppresses activated Wnt/β-catenin signaling by promoting phosphorylation and degradation οf β-catenin. Either complete inhibition of GSK3 or mutations at CK1- and GSK3-phosphorylation sites of β-catenin abolished the suppressive effect of H2. H2 did not increase GSK3-mediated phosphorylation of glycogen synthase, indicating that H2 has no direct effect on GSK3 itself. Knock-down of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) or Axin1, which form the β-catenin degradation complex, minimized the suppressive effect of H2 on β-catenin accumulation. Accordingly, the effect of H2 requires CK1/GSK3-phosphorylation sites of β-catenin, as well as the β-catenin degradation complex comprised of CK1, GSK3, APC, and Axin1. We additionally found that H2 reduces the activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in human osteoarthritis chondrocytes. Oral intake of H2 water tended to ameliorate cartilage degradation in a surgery-induced rat osteoarthritis model through attenuating β-catenin accumulation. We first demonstrate that H2 suppresses abnormally activated Wnt/β-catenin signaling, which accounts for the protective roles of H2 in a fraction of diseases.