The Wnt signaling pathway is an ancient and evolutionarily conserved pathway that regulates crucial aspects of cell fate determination, cell migration, cell polarity, neural patterning and organogenesis during embryonic development. The Wnts are secreted glycoproteins and comprise a large family of nineteen proteins in humans hinting to a daunting complexity of signaling regulation, function and biological output. To date major signaling branches downstream of the Fz receptor have been identified including a canonical or Wnt/beta-catenin dependent pathway and the non-canonical or beta-catenin-independent pathway which can be further divided into the Planar Cell Polarity and the Wnt/Ca(2+) pathways, and these branches are being actively dissected at the molecular and biochemical levels. In this review, we will summarize the most recent advances in our understanding of these Wnt signaling pathways and the role of these pathways in regulating key events during embryonic patterning and morphogenesis.
Keywords: Planar Cell Polarity; Wnt; canonical; dishevelled; frizzled; non-canonical; β-catenin.