Wnt signaling in the vertebrate central nervous system: from axon guidance to synaptic function

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012 Feb 1;4(2):a008003. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a008003.


Regulation of cell signaling by Wnt proteins is critical for the formation of neuronal circuits. Wnts modulate axon pathfinding, dendritic development, and synaptic assembly. Through different receptors, Wnts activate diverse signaling pathways that lead to local changes on the cytoskeleton or global cellular changes involving nuclear function. Recently, a link between neuronal activity, essential for the formation and refinement of neuronal connections, and Wnt signaling has been uncovered. Indeed, neuronal activity regulates the release of Wnt and the localization of their receptors. Wnts mediate synaptic structural changes induced by neuronal activity or experience. New emerging evidence suggests that dysfunction in Wnt signaling contributes to neurological disorders. In this article, the attention is focused on the function of Wnt signaling in the formation of neuronal circuits in the vertebrate central nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Wnt / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Wnt Proteins / physiology*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / physiology*


  • Receptors, Wnt
  • Wnt Proteins