Wnt signals can function as positional cues in establishing cell polarity

Dev Cell. 2006 Mar;10(3):391-6. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2005.12.016.


Wnt signaling plays important roles in cell polarization in diverse organisms, and loss of cell polarity is an early event in tumorigenesis caused by mutations in Wnt pathway genes. Despite this, the precise roles of Wnt proteins in cell polarization have remained elusive. In no organism has it been shown that the asymmetric position of a Wnt signal is essential to establishing a cell's polarity. Attempts to test this by ubiquitous expression of Wnt genes have suggested that Wnt signals might act only as permissive factors in cell polarization. Here we find, by using cell manipulations and ectopic gene expression in C. elegans, that the position from which Wnt signals are presented can determine the polarity of both embryonic and postembryonic cells. Furthermore, the position from which a Wnt signal is presented can determine the polarity of Frizzled receptor localization, suggesting that the polarizing effect of Wnt is likely to be direct. These results demonstrate that Wnt proteins can function as positional cues in establishing cell polarity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / anatomy & histology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / embryology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / physiology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Frizzled Receptors / genetics
  • Frizzled Receptors / metabolism
  • Morphogenesis
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Spindle Apparatus / metabolism
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*


  • Frizzled Receptors
  • Wnt Proteins