Alternative splicing within the Wnt signaling pathway: role in cancer development

Cell Oncol (Dordr). 2016 Feb;39(1):1-13. doi: 10.1007/s13402-015-0266-0. Epub 2016 Jan 13.


Background: The Wnt signaling cascade plays a fundamental role in embryonic development, adult tissue regeneration, homeostasis and stem cell maintenance. Abnormal Wnt signaling has been found to be prevalent in various human cancers. Also, a role of Wnt signaling in the regulation of alternative splicing of several cancer-related genes has been established. In addition, accumulating evidence suggests the existence of multiple splice isoforms of Wnt signaling cascade components, including Wnt ligands, receptors, components of the destruction complex and transcription activators/suppressors. The presence of multiple Wnt signaling-related isoforms may affect the functionality of the Wnt pathway, including its deregulation in cancer. As such, specific Wnt pathway isoform components may serve as therapeutic targets or as biomarkers for certain human cancers. Here, we review the role of alternative splicing of Wnt signaling components during the onset and progression of cancer.

Conclusions: Splice isoforms of components of the Wnt signaling pathway play distinct roles in cancer development. Isoforms of the same component may function in a tissue- and/or cancer-specific manner. Splice isoform expression analyses along with deregulated Wnt signaling pathway analyses may be of help to design efficient diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: Alternative splicing; Cancer; Isoforms; Proliferation; Splicing factor; Wnt signaling; mRNA; β-catenin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing / genetics*
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics*
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics*


  • Ligands
  • Transcription Factors