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Cell Commun Signal. 2005 Oct 19;3:12.

Xenopus frizzled-4S, a splicing variant of Xfz4 is a context-dependent activator and inhibitor of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling.

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Institute of Human Genetics, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 366, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.



Secreted Frizzled related proteins (SFRPs) are extracellular regulators of Wnt signaling. These proteins contain an N-terminal cysteine rich domain (CRD) highly similar to the CRDs of the Frizzled family of seven-transmembrane proteins that act as Wnt receptors. SFRPs can bind to Wnts and prevent their interaction with the Frizzled receptor. Recently it has been reported that a splice variant of human Frizzled-4 (FZD4S) lacking the transmembrane and the cytoplasmic domains of Frizzled-4 can activate rather than inhibit Wnt-8 activity in Xenopus embryos. This indicates that secreted CRD containing proteins such as Frizzled ecto-domains and SFRPs may not always act as Wnt inhibitors. It is not known how FZD4S can activate Wnt/beta-catenin signaling and what biological role this molecule plays in vivo.


Here we report that the Xenopus frizzled-4 is alternatively spliced to give rise to a putative secreted protein that lacks the seven-transmembrane and the cytoplasmic domains. We performed functional experiments in Xenopus embryos to investigate how this novel splicing variant, Xfz4S, can modulate the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway. We show that Xfz4S as well as the extracellular domain of Xfz8 (ECD8) can act as both activators and inhibitors of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling dependent on the Wnt ligand presented. The positive regulation of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling by the extracellular domains of Frizzled receptors is mediated by the members of low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP-5/6) that act as Wnt coreceptors.


This work provides evidence that the secreted extracellular domains of Frizzled receptors may act as both inhibitors and activators of Wnt signaling dependent on the Wnt ligand presented.

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