The Wnt family of secreted glycoproteins participates in a wide array of biological processes, including cellular differentiation, proliferation, survival, apoptosis, adhesion, angiogenesis, hypertrophy, and aging. The canonical Wnt signaling primarily utilizes β-catenin-mediated activation of transcription, while the noncanonical mechanisms involve a calcium-dependent protein kinase C-mediated Wnt/Ca(2+) pathway and a dishevelled-dependent c-Jun N-terminal kinase-mediated planar cell polarity pathway. Although both canonical and noncanonical Wnts have been implicated in cardiac specification, morphogenesis, and differentiation; the molecular events remain unclear and often depend on the cell type and biological context. In this regard, growing evidence indicates that Wnt11 is able to induce cardiogenesis not only during embryonic development but also in adult cells. The cardiogenic properties of Wnt11 may prove useful for preprogramming adult stem cells before myocardial transplantation. Further, elucidation of the molecular steps in Wnt11-induced cardiac differentiation will be necessary to enhance the outcomes of cardiac cell therapy.
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