Rapid activity-dependent modifications in synaptic structure and function require bidirectional Wnt signaling

Neuron. 2008 Mar 13;57(5):705-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.01.026.


Activity-dependent modifications in synapse structure play a key role in synaptic development and plasticity, but the signaling mechanisms involved are poorly understood. We demonstrate that glutamatergic Drosophila neuromuscular junctions undergo rapid changes in synaptic structure and function in response to patterned stimulation. These changes, which depend on transcription and translation, include formation of motile presynaptic filopodia, elaboration of undifferentiated varicosities, and potentiation of spontaneous release frequency. Experiments indicate that a bidirectional Wnt/Wg signaling pathway underlies these changes. Evoked activity induces Wnt1/Wg release from synaptic boutons, which stimulates both a postsynaptic DFz2 nuclear import pathway as well as a presynaptic pathway involving GSK-3beta/Shaggy. Our findings suggest that bidirectional Wg signaling operates downstream of synaptic activity to induce modifications in synaptic structure and function. We propose that activation of the postsynaptic Wg pathway is required for the assembly of the postsynaptic apparatus, while activation of the presynaptic Wg pathway regulates cytoskeletal dynamics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins / chemistry
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / chemistry
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / chemistry
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / chemistry
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Wnt Proteins / chemistry
  • Wnt Proteins / physiology*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Wnt Proteins