The Wnt signaling pathway is a highly conserved system that regulates complex biological processes across all metazoan species. At the cellular level, secreted Wnt proteins serve to break symmetry and provide cells with positional information that is critical to the patterning of the entire body plan. At the organismal level, Wnt signals are employed to orchestrate fundamental developmental processes, including the specification of the anterior-posterior body axis, induction of the primitive streak and ensuing gastrulation movements, and the generation of cell and tissue diversity. Wnt functions extend into adulthood where they regulate stem cell behavior, tissue homeostasis, and damage repair. Disruption of Wnt signaling activity during embryonic development or in adults results in a spectrum of abnormalities and diseases, including cancer. The molecular mechanisms that underlie the myriad of Wnt-regulated biological effects have been the subject of intense research for over three decades. This review is intended to summarize our current understanding of how Wnt signals are generated and interpreted. This article is categorized under: Biological Mechanisms > Cell Signaling Developmental Biology > Stem Cell Biology and Regeneration.
Keywords: WNT; beta-catenin; development; frizzled; signaling; stem cells.
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