Cushioning the cartilage: a canonical Wnt restricting matter

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2017 Nov;13(11):670-681. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2017.171. Epub 2017 Oct 12.


Wnt signalling pathways have key roles in joint development, homeostasis and disease, particularly in osteoarthritis. New data is starting to reveal the importance of tightly regulating canonical Wnt signalling pathway activation to maintain homeostasis and health in articular cartilage. In addition to the presence of different Wnt antagonists that limit pathway activation in articular cartilage, the reciprocal crosstalk between the canonical and non-canonical cascades and competitive antagonism between different Wnt ligands seem to be critical in restraining excessive Wnt pathway activation. Changes in transcriptional complex assembly upon Wnt pathway activation, epigenetic modulation of target gene transcription, in particular through histone modifications, and complex interactions between the Wnt signalling pathway and other signalling pathways, are also instrumental in adjusting Wnt signalling. In this Review, the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in fine-tuning canonical Wnt signalling in the joint are updated, with a focus on the articular cartilage. The interventions for preventing or treating osteoarthritis are also discussed, which should aim to limit disease-associated excessive canonical Wnt activity to avoid joint damage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / physiology*


  • Wnt Proteins