WNK1 is an atypical kinase protein ubiquitously expressed in humans and mice. A mutation in its encoding gene causes hypertension in humans which is associated with abnormal ion homeostasis. WNK1 is critical for in vitro decidualization in human endometrial stromal cells, thereby demonstrating its importance in female reproduction. Using a mouse model, WNK1 was ablated in the female reproductive tract to define its in vivo role in uterine biology. Loss of WNK1 altered uterine morphology, causing endometrial epithelial hyperplasia, adenomyotic features and a delay in embryo implantation, ultimately resulting in compromised fertility. Combining transcriptomic, proteomic and interactomic analyses revealed a novel regulatory pathway whereby WNK1 represses AKT phosphorylation through the phosphatase PP2A in endometrial cells from both humans and mice. We show that WNK1 interacts with PPP2R1A, the alpha isoform of the PP2A scaffold subunit. This maintains the levels of PP2A subunits and stabilizes its activity, which then dephosphorylates AKT. Therefore, loss of WNK1 reduced PP2A activity, causing AKT hypersignaling. Using FOXO1 as a readout of AKT activity, we demonstrate that there was escalated FOXO1 phosphorylation and nuclear exclusion, leading to a disruption in the expression of genes that are crucial for embryo implantation.
Ru-pin Alicia Chi, Tianyuan Wang, Chou-Long Huang, San-Pin Wu, Steven Young, John Lydon, Francesco DeMayo