Dual roles for Wnt signalling during the formation of the vertebrate neuromuscular junction

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2012 Jan;204(1):128-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.2011.02295.x. Epub 2011 May 7.


Wnt proteins play prominent roles in different aspects of neuronal development culminating with the formation of complex neuronal circuits. Here, we discuss new studies addressing the function of Wnt signalling at the peripheral neuromuscular junction (NMJ). In both, invertebrate and vertebrate organisms, Wnt signalling promotes and also inhibits the assembly of the neuromuscular synapse. Here, we focus our attention on recent studies at the vertebrate NMJ that demonstrate that some Wnt proteins collaborate with the Agrin-MuSK signalling to induce post-synaptic differentiation. In contrast, Wnts that activate the Wnt/β-catenin signalling inhibit post-synaptic differentiation. The dual function of different Wnts might finely modulate the proper apposition of the pre- and post-synaptic terminals during NMJ formation and growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agrin / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Frizzled Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Junction / embryology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / physiology*
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Agrin
  • Frizzled Receptors
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases