The RET receptor tyrosine kinase has essential roles in cell survival, differentiation, and proliferation. Oncogenic activation of RET causes the cancer syndrome multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2)and is a frequent event in sporadic thyroid carcinomas. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying RET's potent transforming and mitogenic signals are still not clear. Here, we show that nuclear localization of β-catenin is frequent in both thyroid tumors and their metastases from MEN 2 patients, suggesting a novel mechanism of RET-mediated function through the β-catenin signaling pathway. We show that RET binds to, and tyrosine phosphorylates, β-catenin and show that the interaction between RET and β-catenin can be direct and independent of cytoplasmic kinases, such as SRC. As a result of RET-mediated tyrosine phosphorylation, β-catenin escapes cytosolic down-regulation by the adenomatous polyposis coli/Axin/glycogen synthase kinase-3 complex and accumulates in the nucleus, where it can stimulate β-catenin-specific transcriptional programs in a RET-dependent fashion. We show that down-regulation of β-catenin activity decreases RET-mediated cell proliferation, colony formation, and tumor growth in nude mice. Together, our data show that a β-catenin-RET kinase pathway is a critical contributor to the development and metastasis of human thyroid carcinoma. ©2008 American Association for Cancer Research.