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Eur Cell Mater. 2006 Nov 17;12:71-80.

Role of canonical Wnt-signalling in joint formation.

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Institute of Molecular Pathology, Dr. Bohrgasse 7, 1030 Vienna, Austria.


The individual elements of the vertebrate skeleton are separated by three different types of joints, fibrous, cartilaginous and synovial joints. Synovial joint formation in the limbs is coupled to the formation of the prechondrogenic condensations, which precede the formation of the joint interzone. We are beginning to understand the signals involved in the formation of prechondrogenic condensations and the subsequent differentiation of cells within the condensations into chondrocytes. However, relatively little is known about the molecules and molecular pathways involved in induction of the early joint interzone and the subsequent formation of the synovial joints. Based on gain-of function studies Wnt-signalling, in particular the canonical pathway, has been implicated in the joint induction process. Here we provide genetic evidence from loss-of function analysis of embryos lacking either the central player of the canonical Wnt-pathway, beta-catenin, in the limb mesenchyme or the two ligands, Wnt9a and Wnt4, demonstrating that canonical Wnt-signalling plays an important role in suppressing the chondrogenic potential of cells in the joint thereby actively allowing joint formation. Furthermore our data show that the beta-catenin activity is not essential for the induction of molecular markers expressed in the joint interzone. Thus, suggesting that canonical Wnt-signalling is not required for the induction, but for the subsequent maintenance of the fate of the joint interzone cells.

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