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Curr Drug Targets. 2008 Jul;9(7):565-70.

WNT signaling in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

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  • 1Genetics and Cell Biology Section, National Cancer Center Research Institute, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan.


WNT family members are secreted-type glycoproteins to orchestrate embryogenesis, to maintain homeostasis, and to induce pathological conditions. FZD1, FZD2, FZD3, FZD4, FZD5, FZD6, FZD7, FZD8, FZD9, FZD10, LRP5, LRP6, and ROR2 are transmembrane receptors transducing WNT signals based on ligand-dependent preferentiality for caveolin- or clathrin-mediated endocytosis. WNT signals are transduced to canonical pathway for cell fate determination, and to non-canonical pathways for regulation of planar cell polarity, cell adhesion, and motility. MYC, CCND1, AXIN2, FGF20, WISP1, JAG1, DKK1 and Glucagon are target genes of canonical WNT signaling cascade, while CD44, Vimentin and STX5 are target genes of non-canonical WNT signaling cascades. However, target genes of WNT signaling cascades are determined in a context-dependent manner due to expression profile of transcription factors and epigenetic status. WNT signaling cascades network with Notch, FGF, BMP and Hedgehog signaling cascades to regulate the balance of stem cells and progenitor cells. Here WNT signaling in embryonic stem cells, neural stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells, and intestinal stem cells will be reviewed. WNT3, WNT5A and WNT10B are expressed in undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells, while WNT6, WNT8B and WNT10B in endoderm precursor cells. Wnt6 is expressed in intestinal crypt region for stem or progenitor cells. TNF/alpha-WNT10B signaling is a negative feedback loop to maintain homeostasis of adipose tissue and gastrointestinal mucosa with chronic inflammation. Recombinant WNT protein or WNT mimetic (circular peptide, small molecule compound, or RNA aptamer) in combination with Notch mimetic, FGF protein, and BMP protein opens a new window to tissue engineering for regenerative medicine.

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