Secreted Frizzled-related proteins: searching for relationships and patterns



Secreted Frizzled-related proteins (SFRPs) are modulators of the intermeshing pathways in which signals are transduced by Wnt ligands through Frizzled (Fz) membrane receptors. The Wnt networks influence biological processes ranging from developmental cell fate, cell polarity and adhesion to tumorigenesis and apoptosis. In the five or six years since their discovery, the SFRPs have emerged as dynamically expressed proteins able to bind both Wnts and Fz, with distinctive structural properties in which cysteine-rich domains from Fz- and from netrin-like proteins are juxtaposed. The abundant expression of SFRP genes in the early embryo, altered expression patterns in disease states, and potential significance in the evolution of the vertebrate body plan, make these intriguing molecules relevant to investigations in diverse fields of biology and biomedical sciences. BioEssays 24:811–820, 2002. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.