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Bioessays. 2012 Feb;34(2):110-8. doi: 10.1002/bies.201100102. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Wnt-Notch signalling: an integrated mechanism regulating transitions between cell states.

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Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


The activity of Wnt and Notch signalling is central to many cell fate decisions during development and to the maintenance and differentiation of stem cell populations in homeostasis. While classical views refer to these pathways as independent signal transduction devices that co-operate in different systems, recent work has revealed intricate connections between their components. These observations suggest that rather than operating as two separate pathways, elements of Wnt and Notch signalling configure an integrated molecular device whose main function is to regulate transitions between cell states in development and homeostasis. Here, we propose a general framework for the structure and function of the interactions between these signalling systems that is focused on the notion of 'transition states', i.e. intermediates that arise during cell fate decision processes. These intermediates act as checkpoints in cell fate decision processes and are characterised by the mixed molecular identities of the states involved in these processes.

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