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Trends Genet. 1997 Apr;13(4):157-62.

WNTs modulate cell fate and behavior during vertebrate development.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Institute, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 98195, USA.


Wnt genes encode a family of secreted glycoproteins that modulate cell fate and behavior in embryos through activation of receptor-mediated signaling pathways. Wnt sequences, patterns of expression and activities are highly conserved in evolution, so it has been possible to gain insights into the functions, and mechanisms of action, of the Wnt genes through a synthesis of genetic and cell biological approaches in different organisms. These studies suggest that there are functionally distinct WNT proteins as assayed by the ability to transform cells and by differences in embryonic responses to ectopic WNT signals. Moreover, gain-of-function and loss-of-function studies both support the involvement of Wnt proteins in modulating cell fate and cell behavior during vertebrate development, often through combinatorial interactions with other signaling pathways to regulate gene expression.

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