Fatty acid recognition in the Frizzled receptor family

J Biol Chem. 2019 Jan 11;294(2):726-736. doi: 10.1074/jbc.REV118.005205. Epub 2018 Dec 10.


Wnt signaling regulates physiological processes ranging from cell differentiation to bone formation. Dysregulation of Wnt signaling is linked to several human ailments, including colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancers. As such, modulation of this pathway has been an attractive strategy for therapeutic development of anticancer agents. Since the discovery of Wnt proteins more than 35 years ago, research efforts continue to focus on understanding the biochemistry of their molecular interactions and their biological functions. Wnt is a secreted glycoprotein covalently modified with a cis-unsaturated fatty acyl group at a conserved serine residue, and this modification is required for Wnt secretion and activity. To initiate signaling, Wnt proteins bind to cell-surface Frizzled (FZD) receptors, but the molecular basis for recognition of Wnt's fatty acyl moiety by the extracellular cysteine-rich domain of FZD has become clear only very recently. Here, we review the most recent developments in the field, focusing on structural and biochemical studies of the FZD receptor family and highlighting new insights into their molecular arrangement and mode of regulation by cis-unsaturated fatty acids. Additionally, we examine how other lipid-binding proteins recognize fatty acyl chains on Wnt proteins in the regulation of Wnt secretion and activities. Altogether, this perspective expands our understanding of fatty acid-protein interactions in the FZD system and provides a basis for guiding future research in the field.

Keywords: G protein–coupled receptor (GPCR); Wnt signaling; binding; cancer; cell signaling; cysteine-rich domain (CRD); dimerization; fatty acid; frizzled (FZD); glycoprotein; lipid-binding protein; lipid–protein interaction; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Frizzled Receptors / chemistry*
  • Frizzled Receptors / genetics
  • Frizzled Receptors / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Multigene Family*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Fatty Acids
  • Frizzled Receptors

Associated data

  • PDB/4F0A
  • PDB/6C0B
  • PDB/5URY
  • PDB/5URZ
  • PDB/5T44
  • PDB/5URV
  • PDB/1IJY
  • PDB/5UWG
  • PDB/1E7H
  • PDB/4BKE
  • PDB/4Z69
  • PDB/5OKL
  • PDB/4YMK
  • PDB/4ZYO