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Keywords:

  • neurons;
  • canonical Wnt signaling;
  • noncanonical Wnt signaling;
  • synapse;
  • Aβ;
  • synaptotoxicity

Abstract

Wnt signaling regulates a wealth of aspects of nervous system development and function in embryonic stages and in adulthood. The expression of Wnt ligands and components of the Wnt signaling machinery in early stages of neural development has been related to its role in neurite patterning and in synaptogenesis. Moreover, its expression in the mature nervous system suggests a role for this pathway in synaptic maintenance and function. Therefore, it is of crucial relevance the understanding of the mechanisms by which Wnt signaling regulates these processes. Herein, we discuss how different Wnt ligands, acting through different Wnt signaling pathways, operate in pre- and postsynaptic regions to modulate synapse structure and function. We also elaborate on the idea that Wnt signaling pathways are a target for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases that affect synaptic integrity, such as Alzheimer's disease. Developmental Dynamics 239:94–101, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.