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8  structures 482  species 0  interactions 9206  sequences 69  architectures

Family: wnt (PF00110)

Summary: wnt family

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This is the Wikipedia entry entitled "Wnt signaling pathway". More...

Wnt signaling pathway Edit Wikipedia article

The Wnt signaling pathways are a group of signal transduction pathways which begin with proteins that pass signals into a cell through cell surface receptors. The name Wnt is a portmanteau created from the name Wingless and the name Int-1.[1] Wnt signaling pathways use either nearby cell-cell communication (paracrine) or same-cell communication (autocrine). They are highly evolutionarily conserved in animals, which means they are similar across animal species from fruit flies to humans.[2][3]

Three Wnt signaling pathways have been characterized: the canonical Wnt pathway, the noncanonical planar cell polarity pathway, and the noncanonical Wnt/calcium pathway. All three pathways are activated by the binding of a Wnt-protein ligand to a Frizzled family receptor, which passes the biological signal to the Dishevelled protein inside the cell. The canonical Wnt pathway leads to regulation of gene transcription, and is thought to be negatively regulated in part by the SPATS1 gene.[4] The noncanonical planar cell polarity pathway regulates the cytoskeleton that is responsible for the shape of the cell. The noncanonical Wnt/calcium pathway regulates calcium inside the cell.

Wnt signaling was first identified for its role in carcinogenesis, then for its function in embryonic development. The embryonic processes it controls include body axis patterning, cell fate specification, cell proliferation and cell migration. These processes are necessary for proper formation of important tissues including bone, heart and muscle. Its role in embryonic development was discovered when genetic mutations in Wnt pathway proteins produced abnormal fruit fly embryos. Wnt signaling also controls tissue regeneration in adult bone marrow, skin and intestine.[5] Later research found that the genes responsible for these abnormalities also influenced breast cancer development in mice.

This pathway's clinical importance was demonstrated by mutations that lead to various diseases, including breast and prostate cancer, glioblastoma, type II diabetes and others.[6][7] Encouragingly, in recent years researchers reported first successful use of Wnt pathway inhibitors in mouse models of disease.[8]

History and etymology

The discovery of Wnt signaling was influenced by research on oncogenic (cancer-causing) retroviruses. In 1982, Roel Nusse and Harold Varmus infected mice with mouse mammary tumor virus in order to mutate mouse genes to see which mutated genes could cause breast tumors. They identified a new mouse proto-oncogene that they named int1 (integration 1).[3][9]

Int1 is highly conserved across multiple species, including humans and Drosophila. Its presence in D. melanogaster led researchers to discover in 1987 that the int1 gene in Drosophila was actually the already known and characterized Drosophila gene known as Wingless (Wg).[3] Since previous research by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus (which won them the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995) had already established the function of Wg as a segment polarity gene involved in the formation of the body axis during embryonic development, researchers determined that the mammalian int1 discovered in mice is also involved in embryonic development.[10]

Continued research led to the discovery of further int1-related genes; however, because those genes were not identified in the same manner as int1, the int gene nomenclature was inadequate. Thus, the int/Wingless family became the Wnt family and int1 became Wnt1. The name Wnt is a portmanteau of int and Wg and stands for "Wingless-related integration site".[3]


Crystal protein structure of Wnt8 and the cysteine-rich domain of Frizzled 8

Wnt comprises a diverse family of secreted lipid-modified signaling glycoproteins that are 350–400 amino acids in length.[11] The lipid modification of all Wnts is palmitoleoylation of a single totally conserved serine residue.[12] Palmitoleoylation is necessary because it is required for Wnt to bind to its carrier protein Wntless (WLS) so it can be transported to the plasma membrane for secretion[13] and it allows the Wnt protein to bind its receptor Frizzled [14][15] Wnt proteins also undergo glycosylation, which attaches a carbohydrate in order to ensure proper secretion.[16] In Wnt signaling, these proteins act as ligands to activate the different Wnt pathways via paracrine and autocrine routes.[2][7]

These proteins are highly conserved across species.[3] They can be found in mice, humans, Xenopus, zebrafish, Drosophila and many others.[17]

Species Wnt proteins
Homo sapiens WNT1, WNT2, WNT2B, WNT3, WNT3A, WNT4, WNT5A, WNT5B, WNT6, WNT7A, WNT7B, WNT8A, WNT8B, WNT9A, WNT9B, WNT10A, WNT10B, WNT11, WNT16
Mus musculus (Identical proteins as in H. sapiens) Wnt1, Wnt2, Wnt2B, Wnt3, Wnt3A, Wnt4, Wnt5A, Wnt5B, Wnt6, Wnt7A, Wnt7B, Wnt8A, Wnt8B, Wnt9A, Wnt9B, Wnt10A, Wnt10B, Wnt11, Wnt16
Xenopus Wnt1, Wnt2, Wnt2B, Wnt3, Wnt3A, Wnt4, Wnt5A, Wnt5B, Wnt7A, Wnt7B, Wnt8A, Wnt8B, Wnt10A, Wnt10B, Wnt11, Wnt11R
Danio rerio Wnt1, Wnt2, Wnt2B, Wnt3, Wnt3A, Wnt4, Wnt5A, Wnt5B, Wnt6, Wnt7A, Wnt7B, Wnt8A, Wnt8B, Wnt10A, Wnt10B, Wnt11, Wnt16
Drosophila Wg, DWnt2, DWnt3/5, DWnt 4, DWnt6, WntD/DWnt8, DWnt10
Hydra hywnt1, hywnt5a, hywnt8, hywnt7, hywnt9/10a, hywnt9/10b, hywnt9/10c, hywnt11, hywnt16
C. elegans mom-2, lin-44, egl-20, cwn-1, cwn-2 [18]


Figure 2. Wnt binds to (activates) the receptor. Axin is removed from the "destruction complex." β-Cat moves into the nucleus, binds to a transcription factor on DNA, and activates transcription of a protein. "P" represents phosphate.
Figure 1. Wnt doesn't bind to the receptor. Axin, GSK and APC form a "destruction complex," and β-Cat is destroyed.


Wnt signaling begins when a Wnt protein binds to the N-terminal extra-cellular cysteine-rich domain of a Frizzled (Fz) family receptor.[19] These receptors span the plasma membrane seven times and constitute a distinct family of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs).[20] However, to facilitate Wnt signaling, co-receptors may be required alongside the interaction between the Wnt protein and Fz receptor. Examples include lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP)-5/6, receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK), and ROR2.[7] Upon activation of the receptor, a signal is sent to the phosphoprotein Dishevelled (Dsh), which is located in the cytoplasm. This signal is transmitted via a direct interaction between Fz and Dsh. Dsh proteins are present in all organisms and they all share the following highly conserved protein domains: an amino-terminal DIX domain, a central PDZ domain, and a carboxy-terminal DEP domain. These different domains are important because after Dsh, the Wnt signal can branch off into multiple pathways and each pathway interacts with a different combination of the three domains.[21]

Canonical and noncanonical pathways

The three best characterized Wnt signaling pathways are the canonical Wnt pathway, the noncanonical planar cell polarity pathway, and the noncanonical Wnt/calcium pathway. As their names suggest, these pathways belong to one of two categories: canonical or noncanonical. The difference between the categories is that a canonical pathway involves the protein β-catenin while a noncanonical pathway operates independently of it.[19]

Canonical Wnt pathway

Canonical pathway

The canonical Wnt pathway (or Wnt/β-catenin pathway) is the Wnt pathway that causes an accumulation of β-catenin in the cytoplasm and its eventual translocation into the nucleus to act as a transcriptional coactivator of transcription factors that belong to the TCF/LEF family. Without Wnt, β-catenin would not accumulate in the cytoplasm since a destruction complex would normally degrade it. This destruction complex includes the following proteins: Axin, adenomatosis polyposis coli (APC), protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) and casein kinase 1α (CK1α).[22][23] It degrades β-catenin by targeting it for ubiquitination, which subsequently sends it to the proteasome to be digested.[19][24] However, as soon as Wnt binds Fz and LRP5/6, the destruction complex function becomes disrupted. This is due to Wnt causing the translocation of the negative Wnt regulator, Axin, and the destruction complex to the plasma membrane. Phosphorylation by other proteins in the destruction complex subsequently binds Axin to the cytoplasmic tail of LRP5/6. Axin becomes de-phosphorylated and its stability and levels decrease. Dsh then becomes activated via phosphorylation and its DIX and PDZ domains inhibit the GSK3 activity of the destruction complex. This allows β-catenin to accumulate and localize to the nucleus and subsequently induce a cellular response via gene transduction alongside the TCF/LEF (T-cell factor/lymphoid enhancing factor)[25] transcription factors.[24] β-catenin recruits other transcriptional coactivators, such as BCL9, Pygopus[26] and Parafibromin/Hyrax.[27] The complexity of the transcriptional complex assembled by β-catenin is beginning to emerge thanks to new high-throughput proteomics studies.[28] The extensivity of the β-catenin interacting proteins complicates our understanding: β-catenin may be directly phosphorylated at Ser552 by Akt, which causes its disassociation from cell-cell contacts and accumulation in cytosol, thereafter 14-3-3ζ interacts with β-catenin (pSer552) and enhances its nuclear translocation.[29] BCL9 and Pygopus have been reported, in fact, to possess several β-catenin-independent functions (therefore, likely, Wnt signaling-independent).[30][31][32]

Noncanonical PCP pathway

Noncanonical pathways

The noncanonical planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway does not involve β-catenin. It does not use LRP-5/6 as its co-receptor and is thought to use NRH1, Ryk, PTK7 or ROR2. The PCP pathway is activated via the binding of Wnt to Fz and its co-receptor. The receptor then recruits Dsh, which uses its PDZ and DIX domains to form a complex with Dishevelled-associated activator of morphogenesis 1 (DAAM1). Daam1 then activates the small G-protein Rho through a guanine exchange factor. Rho activates Rho-associated kinase (ROCK), which is one of the major regulators of the cytoskeleton. Dsh also forms a complex with rac1 and mediates profilin binding to actin. Rac1 activates JNK and can also lead to actin polymerization. Profilin binding to actin can result in restructuring of the cytoskeleton and gastrulation.[7][33]

Noncanonical Wnt/calcium pathway

The noncanonical Wnt/calcium pathway also does not involve β-catenin. Its role is to help regulate calcium release from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in order to control intracellular calcium levels. Like other Wnt pathways, upon ligand binding, the activated Fz receptor directly interacts with Dsh and activates specific Dsh-protein domains. The domains involved in Wnt/calcium signaling are the PDZ and DEP domains.[7] However, unlike other Wnt pathways, the Fz receptor directly interfaces with a trimeric G-protein. This co-stimulation of Dsh and the G-protein can lead to the activation of either PLC or cGMP-specific PDE. If PLC is activated, the plasma membrane component PIP2 is cleaved into DAG and IP3. When IP3 binds its receptor on the ER, calcium is released. Increased concentrations of calcium and DAG can activate Cdc42 through PKC. Cdc42 is an important regulator of ventral patterning. Increased calcium also activates calcineurin and CaMKII. CaMKII induces activation of the transcription factor NFAT, which regulates cell adhesion, migration and tissue separation.[7] Calcineurin activates TAK1 and NLK kinase, which can interfere with TCF/ß-Catenin signaling in the canonical Wnt pathway.[34] However, if PDE is activated, calcium release from the ER is inhibited. PDE mediates this through the inhibition of PKG, which subsequently causes the inhibition of calcium release.[7]

Integrated Wnt pathway

The binary distinction of canonical and non-canonical Wnt signaling pathways has come under scrutiny and an integrated, convergent Wnt pathway has been proposed.[35] Some evidence for this was found for one Wnt ligand (Wnt5A).[36] Evidence for a convergent Wnt signaling pathway that shows integrated activation of Wnt/Ca2+ and Wnt/ß-catenin signaling, for multiple Wnt ligands, was described in mammalian cell lines.[37]

Other pathways

Wnt signaling also regulates a number of other signaling pathways that have not been as extensively elucidated. One such pathway includes the interaction between Wnt and GSK3. During cell growth, Wnt can inhibit GSK3 in order to activate mTOR in the absence of β-catenin. However, Wnt can also serve as a negative regulator of mTOR via activation of the tumor suppressor TSC2, which is upregulated via Dsh and GSK3 interaction.[38] During myogenesis, Wnt uses PA and CREB to activate MyoD and Myf5 genes.[39] Wnt also acts in conjunction with Ryk and Src to allow for regulation of neuron repulsion during axonal guidance. Wnt regulates gastrulation when CK1 serves as an inhibitor of Rap1-ATPase in order to modulate the cytoskeleton during gastrulation. Further regulation of gastrulation is achieved when Wnt uses ROR2 along with the CDC42 and JNK pathway to regulate the expression of PAPC. Dsh can also interact with aPKC, Pa3, Par6 and LGl in order to control cell polarity and microtubule cytoskeleton development. While these pathways overlap with components associated with PCP and Wnt/Calcium signaling, they are considered distinct pathways because they produce different responses.[7]


In order to ensure proper functioning, Wnt signaling is constantly regulated at several points along its signaling pathways.[40] For example, Wnt proteins are palmitoylated. The protein porcupine mediates this process, which means that it helps regulate when the Wnt ligand is secreted by determining when it is fully formed. Secretion is further controlled with proteins such as GPR177 (wntless) and evenness interrupted and complexes such as the retromer complex.[7][24] Upon secretion, the ligand can be prevented from reaching its receptor through the binding of proteins such as the stabilizers Dally and glypican 3 (GPC3), which inhibit diffusion. In cancer cells, both the heparan sulfate chains[41][42] and the core protein[43][44] of GPC3 are involved in regulating Wnt binding and activation for cell proliferation.[45][46] Wnt recognizes a heparan sulfate structure on GPC3, which contains IdoA2S and GlcNS6S, and the 3-O-sulfation in GlcNS6S3S enhances the binding of Wnt to the heparan sulfate glypican.[47] A cysteine-rich domain at the N-lobe of GPC3 has been identified to form a Wnt-binding hydrophobic groove including phenylalanine-41 that interacts with Wnt.[44][48] Blocking the Wnt binding domain using a nanobody called HN3 can inhibit Wnt activation.[44] At the Fz receptor, the binding of proteins other than Wnt can antagonize signaling. Specific antagonists include Dickkopf (Dkk), Wnt inhibitory factor 1 (WIF-1),[49][50] secreted Frizzled-related proteins (SFRP), Cerberus, Frzb, Wise, SOST, and Naked cuticle. These constitute inhibitors of Wnt signaling. However, other molecules also act as activators. Norrin and R-Spondin2 activate Wnt signaling in the absence of Wnt ligand. Interactions between Wnt signaling pathways also regulate Wnt signaling. As previously mentioned, the Wnt/calcium pathway can inhibit TCF/β-catenin, preventing canonical Wnt pathway signaling.[7][24] Prostaglandin E2 is an essential activator of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway. Interaction of PGE2 with its receptors E2/E4 stabilizes β-catenin through cAMP/PKA mediated phosphorylation. The synthesis of PGE2 is necessary for Wnt signaling mediated processes such as tissue regeneration and control of stem cell population in zebrafish and mouse.[5] Intriguingly, the unstructured regions of several oversized Intrinsically disordered proteins play crucial roles in regulating Wnt signaling.[51]

Induced cell responses

Embryonic development

Wnt signaling plays a critical role in embryonic development. It operates in both vertebrates and invertebrates, including humans, frogs, zebrafish, C. elegans, Drosophila and others. It was first found in the segment polarity of Drosophila, where it helps to establish anterior and posterior polarities. It is implicated in other developmental processes. As its function in Drosophila suggests, it plays a key role in body axis formation, particularly the formation of the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes. It is involved in the induction of cell differentiation to prompt formation of important organs such as lungs and ovaries. Wnt further ensures the development of these tissues through proper regulation of cell proliferation and migration. Wnt signaling functions can be divided into axis patterning, cell fate specification, cell proliferation and cell migration.[52]

Axis patterning

In early embryo development, the formation of the primary body axes is a crucial step in establishing the organism's overall body plan. The axes include the anteroposterior axis, dorsoventral axis, and right-left axis. Wnt signaling is implicated in the formation of the anteroposterior and dorsoventral (DV) axes. Wnt signaling activity in anterior-posterior development can be seen in mammals, fish and frogs. In mammals, the primitive streak and other surrounding tissues produce the morphogenic compounds Wnts, BMPs, FGFs, Nodal and retinoic acid to establish the posterior region during late gastrula. These proteins form concentration gradients. Areas of highest concentration establish the posterior region while areas of lowest concentration indicate the anterior region. In fish and frogs, β-catenin produced by canonical Wnt signaling causes the formation of organizing centers, which, alongside BMPs, elicit posterior formation. Wnt involvement in DV axis formation can be seen in the activity of the formation of the Spemann organizer, which establishes the dorsal region. Canonical Wnt signaling β-catenin production induces the formation of this organizer via the activation of the genes twin and siamois.[35][52] Similarly, in avian gastrulation, cells of the Koller's sickle express different mesodermal marker genes that allow for the differential movement of cells during the formation of the primitive streak. Wnt signaling activated by FGFs is responsible for this movement.[53][54]

Wnt signaling is also involved in the axis formation of specific body parts and organ systems later in development. In vertebrates, sonic hedgehog (Shh) and Wnt morphogenetic signaling gradients establish the dorsoventral axis of the central nervous system during neural tube axial patterning. High Wnt signaling establishes the dorsal region while high Shh signaling indicates the ventral region.[55] Wnt is involved in the DV formation of the central nervous system through its involvement in axon guidance. Wnt proteins guide the axons of the spinal cord in an anterior-posterior direction.[56] Wnt is also involved in the formation of the limb DV axis. Specifically, Wnt7a helps produce the dorsal patterning of the developing limb.[35][52]

In the embryonic differentiation waves model of development Wnt plays a critical role as part a signalling complex in competent cells ready to differentiate. Wnt reacts to the activity of the cytoskeleton, stabilizing the initial change created by a passing wave of contraction or expansion and simultaneously signals the nucleus through the use of its different signalling pathways as to which wave the individual cell has participated in. Wnt activity thereby amplifies mechanical signalling that occurs during development.[57][58]

Cell fate specification

Cell fate specification or cell differentiation is a process where undifferentiated cells can become a more specialized cell type. Wnt signaling induces differentiation of pluripotent stem cells into mesoderm and endoderm progenitor cells.[59] These progenitor cells further differentiate into cell types such as endothelial, cardiac and vascular smooth muscle lineages.[60] Wnt signaling induces blood formation from stem cells. Specifically, Wnt3 leads to mesoderm committed cells with hematopoietic potential.[61] Wnt1 antagonizes neural differentiation and is a major factor in self-renewal of neural stem cells. This allows for regeneration of nervous system cells, which is further evidence of a role in promoting neural stem cell proliferation.[59] Wnt signaling is involved in germ cell determination, gut tissue specification, hair follicle development, lung tissue development, trunk neural crest cell differentiation, nephron development, ovary development and sex determination.[52] Wnt signaling also antagonizes heart formation, and Wnt inhibition was shown to be a critical inducer of heart tissue during development,[62][63][64] and small molecule Wnt inhibitors are routinely used to produce cardiomyocytes from pluripotent stem cells.[65][66]

Cell proliferation

In order to have the mass differentiation of cells needed to form the specified cell tissues of different organisms, proliferation and growth of embryonic stem cells must take place. This process is mediated through canonical Wnt signaling, which increases nuclear and cytoplasmic β-catenin. Increased β-catenin can initiate transcriptional activation of proteins such as cyclin D1 and c-myc, which control the G1 to S phase transition in the cell cycle. Entry into the S phase causes DNA replication and ultimately mitosis, which are responsible for cell proliferation.[67] This proliferation increase is directly paired with cell differentiation because as the stem cells proliferate, they also differentiate. This allows for overall growth and development of specific tissue systems during embryonic development. This is apparent in systems such as the circulatory system where Wnt3a leads to proliferation and expansion of hematopoietic stem cells needed for red blood cell formation.[68]

The biochemistry of cancer stem cells is subtly different than that of other tumor cells. These so-called Wnt-addicted cells hijack and depend on constant stimulation of the Wnt pathway to promote their uncontrolled growth, survival and migration. In cancer, Wnt signaling can become independent of regular stimuli, through mutations in downstream oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes that become permanently activated even though the normal receptor has not received a signal. β-catenin binds to transcription factors such as the protein TCF4 and in combination the molecules activate the necessary genes. LF3 strongly inhibits this binding in vitro, in cell lines and reduced tumor growth in mouse models. It prevented replication and reduced their ability to migrate, all without affecting healthy cells. No cancer stem cells remained after treatment. The discovery was the product of "rational drug design", involving AlphaScreens and ELISA technologies.[69]

Cell migration

Diagram illustrating the epithelial-mesenchymal transition

Cell migration during embryonic development allows for the establishment of body axes, tissue formation, limb induction and several other processes. Wnt signaling helps mediate this process, particularly during convergent extension. Signaling from both the Wnt PCP pathway and canonical Wnt pathway is required for proper convergent extension during gastrulation. Convergent extension is further regulated by the Wnt/calcium pathway, which blocks convergent extension when activated. Wnt signaling also induces cell migration in later stages of development through the control of the migration behavior of neuroblasts, neural crest cells, myocytes, and tracheal cells.[70]

Wnt signaling is involved in another key migration process known as the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). This process allows epithelial cells to transform into mesenchymal cells so that they are no longer held in place at the laminin. It involves cadherin down-regulation so that cells can detach from laminin and migrate. Wnt signaling is an inducer of EMT, particularly in mammary development.[71]

Insulin sensitivity

Diagram illustrating the interaction between the Wnt and insulin signaling pathways

Insulin is a peptide hormone involved in glucose homeostasis within certain organisms. Specifically, it leads to upregulation of glucose transporters in the cell membrane in order to increase glucose uptake from the bloodstream. This process is partially mediated by activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, which can increase a cell's insulin sensitivity. In particular, Wnt10b is a Wnt protein that increases this sensitivity in skeletal muscle cells.[72]

Clinical implications


Since its initial discovery, Wnt signaling has had an association with cancer. When Wnt1 was discovered, it was first identified as a proto-oncogene in a mouse model for breast cancer. The fact that Wnt1 is a homolog of Wg shows that it is involved in embryonic development, which often calls for rapid cell division and migration. Misregulation of these processes can lead to tumor development via excess cell proliferation.[3]

Canonical Wnt pathway activity is involved in the development of benign and malignant breast tumors. Its presence is revealed by elevated levels of β-catenin in the nucleus and/or cytoplasm, which can be detected with immunohistochemical staining and Western blotting. Increased β-catenin expression is correlated with poor prognosis in breast cancer patients. This accumulation may be due to factors such as mutations in β-catenin, deficiencies in the β-catenin destruction complex, most frequently by mutations in structurally disordered regions of APC, overexpression of Wnt ligands, loss of inhibitors and/or decreased activity of regulatory pathways (such as the Wnt/calcium pathway).[51][73][74] Breast tumors can metastasize due to Wnt involvement in EMT. Research looking at metastasis of basal-like breast cancer to the lungs showed that repression of Wnt/β-catenin signaling can prevent EMT, which can inhibit metastasis.[75]

Wnt signaling has been implicated in the development of other cancers. Changes in CTNNB1 expression, which is the gene that encodes β-catenin, can be measured in breast, colorectal, melanoma, prostate, lung, and other cancers. Increased expression of Wnt ligand-proteins such as Wnt1, Wnt2 and Wnt7A were observed in the development of glioblastoma, oesophageal cancer and ovarian cancer respectively. Other proteins that cause multiple cancer types in the absence of proper functioning include ROR1, ROR2, SFRP4, Wnt5A, WIF1 and those of the TCF/LEF family.[76]

The link between PGE2 and Wnt suggests that a chronic inflammation-related increase of PGE2 may lead to activation of the Wnt pathway in different tissues, resulting in carcinogenesis.[5]

Type II diabetes

Diabetes mellitus type 2 is a common disease that causes reduced insulin secretion and increased insulin resistance in the periphery. It results in increased blood glucose levels, or hyperglycemia, which can be fatal if untreated. Since Wnt signaling is involved in insulin sensitivity, malfunctioning of its pathway could be involved. Overexpression of Wnt5b, for instance, may increase susceptibility due to its role in adipogenesis, since obesity and type II diabetes have high comorbidity.[77] Wnt signaling is a strong activator of mitochondrial biogenesis. This leads to increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) known to cause DNA and cellular damage.[78] This ROS-induced damage is significant because it can cause acute hepatic insulin resistance, or injury-induced insulin resistance.[79] Mutations in Wnt signaling-associated transcription factors, such as TCF7L2, are linked to increased susceptibility.[80]

See also


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Further reading

External links

This page is based on a Wikipedia article. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

This tab holds the annotation information that is stored in the Pfam database. As we move to using Wikipedia as our main source of annotation, the contents of this tab will be gradually replaced by the Wikipedia tab.

wnt family Provide feedback

Wnt genes have been identified in vertebrates and invertebrates but not in plants, unicellular eukaryotes or prokaryotes. In humans, 19 WNT proteins are known. Because of their insolubility little is known about Wnt protein structure, but all have 23 or 24 Cys residues whose spacing is highly conserved. Signal transduction by Wnt proteins (including the Wnt/beta-catenin, the Wnt/Ca++, and the Wnt/polarity pathway) is mediated by receptors of the Frizzled and LDL-receptor-related protein (LRP) families [1].

Literature references

  1. Miller JR; , Genome Biol 2002;3:REVIEWS3001.: The Wnts. PUBMED:11806834 EPMC:11806834

External database links

This tab holds annotation information from the InterPro database.

InterPro entry IPR005817

Wnt proteins constitute a large family of secreted molecules that are involved in intercellular signalling during development. The name derives from the first 2 members of the family to be discovered: int-1 (mouse) and wingless (Drosophila) [ PUBMED:9891778 ]. It is now recognised that Wnt signalling controls many cell fate decisions in a variety of different organisms, including mammals [ PUBMED:10508601 ]. Wnt signalling has been implicated in tumourigenesis, early mesodermal patterning of the embryo, morphogenesis of the brain and kidneys, regulation of mammary gland proliferation and Alzheimer's disease [ PUBMED:10967351 , PUBMED:9192851 ].

Wnt-mediated signalling is believed to proceed initially through binding to cell surface receptors of the frizzled family; the signal is subsequently transduced through several cytoplasmic components to B-catenin, which enters the nucleus and activates the transcription of several genes important in development [ PUBMED:10733430 ]. Several non-canonical Wnt signalling pathways have also been elucidated that act independently of B-catenin. Canonical and noncanonical Wnt signaling branches are highly interconnected, and cross-regulate each other [ PUBMED:21536746 ].

Members of the Wnt gene family are defined by their sequence similarity to mouse Wnt-1 and Wingless in Drosophila. They encode proteins of ~350-400 residues in length, with orthologues identified in several, mostly vertebrate, species. Very little is known about the structure of Wnts as they are notoriously insoluble, but they share the following features characteristics of secretory proteins: a signal peptide, several potential N-glycosylation sites and 22 conserved cysteines [ PUBMED:9891778 ] that are probably involved in disulphide bonds. The Wnt proteins seem to adhere to the plasma membrane of the secreting cells and are therefore likely to signal over only few cell diameters. Fifteen major Wnt gene families have been identified in vertebrates, with multiple subtypes within some classes.

In humans, 19 Wnt proteins have been identified that share 27% to 83% amino-acid sequence identity and a conserved pattern of 23 or 24 cysteine residues [ PUBMED:11806834 ]. Wnt genes are highly conserved between vertebrate species sharing overall sequence identity and gene structure, and are slightly less conserved between vertebrates and invertebrates.

Gene Ontology

The mapping between Pfam and Gene Ontology is provided by InterPro. If you use this data please cite InterPro.

Domain organisation

Below is a listing of the unique domain organisations or architectures in which this domain is found. More...

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We store a range of different sequence alignments for families. As well as the seed alignment from which the family is built, we provide the full alignment, generated by searching the sequence database (reference proteomes) using the family HMM. We also generate alignments using four representative proteomes (RP) sets and the UniProtKB sequence database. More...

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We make a range of alignments for each Pfam-A family. You can see a description of each above. You can view these alignments in various ways but please note that some types of alignment are never generated while others may not be available for all families, most commonly because the alignments are too large to handle.

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You can also download a FASTA format file containing the full-length sequences for all sequences in the full alignment.

HMM logo

HMM logos is one way of visualising profile HMMs. Logos provide a quick overview of the properties of an HMM in a graphical form. You can see a more detailed description of HMM logos and find out how you can interpret them here. More...


This page displays the phylogenetic tree for this family's seed alignment. We use FastTree to calculate neighbour join trees with a local bootstrap based on 100 resamples (shown next to the tree nodes). FastTree calculates approximately-maximum-likelihood phylogenetic trees from our seed alignment.

Note: You can also download the data file for the tree.

Curation and family details

This section shows the detailed information about the Pfam family. You can see the definitions of many of the terms in this section in the glossary and a fuller explanation of the scoring system that we use in the scores section of the help pages.

Curation View help on the curation process

Seed source: Prosite
Previous IDs: none
Type: Family
Sequence Ontology: SO:0100021
Author: Sonnhammer ELL
Number in seed: 173
Number in full: 9206
Average length of the domain: 274.40 aa
Average identity of full alignment: 39 %
Average coverage of the sequence by the domain: 82.80 %

HMM information View help on HMM parameters

HMM build commands:
build method: hmmbuild -o /dev/null HMM SEED
search method: hmmsearch -Z 61295632 -E 1000 --cpu 4 HMM pfamseq
Model details:
Parameter Sequence Domain
Gathering cut-off 20.3 20.3
Trusted cut-off 20.6 20.4
Noise cut-off 20.2 20.2
Model length: 309
Family (HMM) version: 22
Download: download the raw HMM for this family

Species distribution

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Colour assignments

Archea Archea Eukaryota Eukaryota
Bacteria Bacteria Other sequences Other sequences
Viruses Viruses Unclassified Unclassified
Viroids Viroids Unclassified sequence Unclassified sequence


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This visualisation provides a simple graphical representation of the distribution of this family across species. You can find the original interactive tree in the adjacent tab. More...

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For those sequences which have a structure in the Protein DataBank, we use the mapping between UniProt, PDB and Pfam coordinate systems from the PDBe group, to allow us to map Pfam domains onto UniProt sequences and three-dimensional protein structures. The table below shows the structures on which the wnt domain has been found. There are 8 instances of this domain found in the PDB. Note that there may be multiple copies of the domain in a single PDB structure, since many structures contain multiple copies of the same protein sequence.

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AlphaFold Structure Predictions

The list of proteins below match this family and have AlphaFold predicted structures. Click on the protein accession to view the predicted structure.

Protein Predicted structure External Information
A0A0G2K3B7 View 3D Structure Click here
A0A0G2K6Q8 View 3D Structure Click here
A5WVL3 View 3D Structure Click here
B0LK22 View 3D Structure Click here
B0S7E3 View 3D Structure Click here
B1WBR9 View 3D Structure Click here
B3DFK5 View 3D Structure Click here
B6V3E1 View 3D Structure Click here
B6V3E2 View 3D Structure Click here
D3ZCR1 View 3D Structure Click here
D3ZF63 View 3D Structure Click here
D3ZFS0 View 3D Structure Click here
D3ZND6 View 3D Structure Click here
D3ZRW5 View 3D Structure Click here
D4A3K6 View 3D Structure Click here
D4A3W9 View 3D Structure Click here
D4A9D7 View 3D Structure Click here
D4A9J2 View 3D Structure Click here
E7FBM9 View 3D Structure Click here
F1M077 View 3D Structure Click here
F1Q5B7 View 3D Structure Click here
F1Q8M2 View 3D Structure Click here
F1QK98 View 3D Structure Click here
F1R205 View 3D Structure Click here
F1RB76 View 3D Structure Click here
F6NGJ7 View 3D Structure Click here
G3V7U3 View 3D Structure Click here
G3V819 View 3D Structure Click here
G5EG05 View 3D Structure Click here
M0R9D3 View 3D Structure Click here
O00744 View 3D Structure Click here
O00755 View 3D Structure Click here
O14904 View 3D Structure Click here
O14905 View 3D Structure Click here
O35468 View 3D Structure Click here
O70283 View 3D Structure Click here
O73864 View 3D Structure Click here
O96014 View 3D Structure Click here
P04426 View 3D Structure Click here
P04628 View 3D Structure Click here