Role of the Wnt-Frizzled system in cardiac pathophysiology: a rapidly developing, poorly understood area with enormous potential

J Physiol. 2013 Mar 15;591(6):1409-32. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.235382. Epub 2012 Dec 3.


Abstract The Wnt-Frizzled (Fzd) G-protein-coupled receptor system, involving 19 distinct Wnt ligands and 10 Fzd receptors, plays key roles in the development and functioning of many organ systems. There is increasing evidence that Wnt-Fzd signalling is important in regulating cardiac function. Wnt-Fzd signalling primarily involves a canonical pathway, with dishevelled-1-dependent nuclear translocation of β-catenin that derepresses Wnt-sensitive gene transcription, but can also include non-canonical pathways via phospholipase-C/Ca(2+) mobilization and dishevelled-protein activation of small GTPases. Wnt-Fzd effects vary with specific ligand/receptor interactions and associated downstream pathways. This paper reviews the biochemistry and physiology of the Wnt-Fzd complex, and presents current knowledge of Wnt signalling in cardiac remodelling processes such as hypertrophy and fibrosis, as well as disease states such as myocardial infarction (MI), heart failure and arrhythmias. Wnt signalling is activated during hypertrophy; inhibiting Wnt signalling by activating glycogen synthase kinase attenuates the hypertrophic response. Wnt signalling has complex and time-dependent actions post-MI, so that either beneficial or harmful effects might result from Wnt-directed interventions. Stem cell biology, a promising area for therapeutic intervention, is highly regulated by Wnt signalling. The Wnt system regulates fibroblast function, and is prominently altered in arrhythmogenic ventricular cardiomyopathy, a familial disease involving excess deposition of fibroadipose tissue. Wnt signalling controls connexin43 expression, thereby contributing to the regulation of cardiac electrical stability and arrhythmia generation. Although much has been learned about Wnt-Fzd signalling in hypertrophy and infarction, its role is poorly understood for a broad range of other heart disorders. Much more needs to be learned for its contributions to be fully appreciated, and to permit more effective exploitation of its enormous potential in therapeutic development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiomegaly / metabolism*
  • Frizzled Receptors / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / metabolism*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*


  • Frizzled Receptors