The WNT signaling pathway from ligand secretion to gene transcription: molecular mechanisms and pharmacological targets

Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Apr;138(1):66-83. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2013.01.002. Epub 2013 Jan 14.


Wingless/integrase-1 (WNT) signaling is a key pathway regulating various aspects of embryonic development; however it also underlies several pathological conditions in man, including various cancers and fibroproliferative diseases in several organs. Investigating the molecular processes involved in (canonical) WNT signaling will open new avenues for generating new therapeutics to specifically target diseases in which WNT signaling is aberrantly regulated. Here we describe the complexity of WNT signal transduction starting from the processes involved in WNT ligand biogenesis and secretion by WNT producing cells followed by a comprehensive overview of the molecular signaling events ultimately resulting in enhanced transcription of specific genes in WNT receiving cells. Finally, the possible targets for therapeutic intervention and the available pharmacological inhibitors for this complex signaling pathway are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*
  • beta Catenin / metabolism*


  • Ligands
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin