The wingless/int1 (WNT)/Frizzled (FZD) signalling pathway controls numerous cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, cell-fate decisions, migration and plays a crucial role during embryonic development. Nineteen mammalian WNTs can bind to 10 FZDs thereby activating different downstream pathways such as WNT/β-catenin, WNT/planar cell polarity and WNT/Ca2+. However, the mechanisms of signalling specification and the involvement of heterotrimeric G proteins are still unclear. Disturbances in the pathways can lead to various diseases ranging from cancer, inflammatory diseases to metabolic and neurological disorders. Due to the presence of seven-transmembrane segments, evidence for coupling between FZDs and G proteins and substantial structural differences in class A, B or C GPCRs, FZDs were grouped separately in the IUPHAR GPCR database as the class FZD within the superfamily of GPCRs. Recently, important progress has been made pointing to a direct activation of G proteins after WNT stimulation. WNT/FZD and G protein coupling remain to be fully explored, although the basic observation supporting the nature of FZDs as GPCRs is compelling. Because the involvement of different (i) WNTs; (ii) FZDs; and (iii) intracellular binding partners could selectively affect signalling specification, in this review we present the current understanding of receptor/ligand selectivity of FZDs and WNTs. We pinpoint what is known about signalling specification and the physiological relevance of these interactions with special emphasis on FZD–G protein interactions.
This article is part of a themed section on Molecular Pharmacology of GPCRs. To view the other articles in this section visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bph.2014.171.issue-5