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Atherosclerosis. 2014 Nov;237(1):155-62. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.08.027. Epub 2014 Sep 3.

Wnt5a: a player in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and other inflammatory disorders.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA; Department of Biomedical Sciences, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA. Electronic address:



The objective of this article is to review the current literature on Wnt5a and its signaling mechanism, along with its role in atherosclerosis. In addition, the significance of Wnt5a as a diagnostic marker and a potential therapeutic target is reviewed. Wnt5a, a secreted glycoprotein, belongs to a family of highly conserved proteins that regulate important processes such as cell fate specification, embryonic development, cell proliferation, migration, and differentiation in a variety of organisms. The complexity of Wnt5a signaling lies in the fact that Wnt5a can bind to different classes of frizzled receptors, receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 2, as well as co-receptors such as low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5/6. Wnt5a signals primarily through the non-canonical pathway, where it mediates cell proliferation, adhesion, and movement. However, the role of Wnt5a in canonical signaling is still unresolved. Depending on the receptor availability, Wnt5a can serve to activate or inhibit the canonical Wnt signaling pathway. Due to the promiscuous nature of Wnt5a, it has been extremely difficult to fully understand its signaling mechanism. Wnt5a has recently emerged as a macrophage effector molecule that triggers inflammation. Perturbations in Wnt5a signaling have been reported in several inflammatory diseases, particularly in sepsis, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis.


Both existing and emerging evidence suggests that the expression of Wnt5a is always up-regulated in these, and possibly other inflammatory disorders. This knowledge can be useful for targeting Wnt5a and/or its receptor and downstream signaling molecules for therapeutic intervention in inflammatory disorders.


Atherosclerosis; Inflammation; Inflammatory disorders; Macrophages; Wnt5a

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