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Curr Biol. 2002 Jan 8;12(1):53-8.

Frizzled receptors activate a novel JNK-dependent pathway that may lead to apoptosis.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School and Molecular Medicine Unit, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Extracellular Wnt ligands and their receptors of the Frizzled family control cell fate, proliferation, and polarity during metazoan development. Frizzled signaling modulates target gene expression through a beta-catenin-dependent pathway, functions to establish planar cell polarity in Drosophila epithelia, and activates convergent extension movements and intracellular Ca(2+) signaling in frog and fish embryos. Here, we report that a Frizzled receptor, Xenopus Frizzled 8 (Xfz8), activates c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNK) and triggers rapid apoptotic cell death in gastrulating Xenopus embryos. This activity of Xfz8 required the cytoplasmic tail of the receptor and was blocked by a dominant inhibitor of JNK. Moreover, the cytoplasmic tail of Xfz8 targeted to the membrane was sufficient for activation of JNK and apoptosis. The apoptotic signaling was shared by a specific subset of Frizzled receptors, was inhibited by Wnt5a, and occurred in a Dishevelled- and T cell factor (TCF)-independent manner. Thus, our experiments identify a novel Frizzled-dependent signaling pathway, which involves JNK and differs from the beta-catenin-dependent and convergent extension pathways.

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