Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Curr Biol. 2001 Jan 9;11(1):1-7.

Stochastic WNT signaling between nonequivalent cells regulates adhesion but not fate in the two-cell leech embryo.

Author information

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.



In the leech Helobdella robusta, an annelid worm, the early pattern of cell divisions is stereotyped. The unequal first cleavage yields cells AB and CD, which differ in size, cytoplasmic inheritance, normal fate, and developmental potential.


Here we report a dynamic and transcription-independent pattern of WNT signaling in the two-cell stage of H. robusta. Surprisingly, HRO-WNT-A is first expressed in a stochastic manner, such that either AB or CD secretes the protein in each embryo. This stochastic phase is followed by a deterministic phase during which first AB, then CD expresses HRO-WNT-A. When contact between the cells is reduced or eliminated, both AB and CD express HRO-WNT-A simultaneously. Finally, bathing embryos in anti-HRO-WNT-A antibody during first cleavage reduces the adhesion between cells AB and CD.


Our findings show that the stochastic phase of HRO-WNT-A signaling in the two-cell stage of Helobdella is negatively regulated by cell-cell contact and that this early signaling affects cell adhesion without affecting cell fate. We speculate that the primordial function of wnt class genes may have been to regulate cell-cell adhesion and that the nuclear signaling components of the wnt pathway arose later in association with the evolution of diverse cell types.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center