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Elife. 2019 Jan 16;8. pii: e42093. doi: 10.7554/eLife.42093.

Light-activated Frizzled7 reveals a permissive role of non-canonical wnt signaling in mesendoderm cell migration.

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Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Klosterneuburg, Austria.
Centre for Mechanochemical Cell Biology and Division of Biomedical Sciences, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.
Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Australia.
European Molecular Biology Laboratory Australia (EMBL Australia), Monash University, Clayton, Australia.


Non-canonical Wnt signaling plays a central role for coordinated cell polarization and directed migration in metazoan development. While spatiotemporally restricted activation of non-canonical Wnt-signaling drives cell polarization in epithelial tissues, it remains unclear whether such instructive activity is also critical for directed mesenchymal cell migration. Here, we developed a light-activated version of the non-canonical Wnt receptor Frizzled 7 (Fz7) to analyze how restricted activation of non-canonical Wnt signaling affects directed anterior axial mesendoderm (prechordal plate, ppl) cell migration within the zebrafish gastrula. We found that Fz7 signaling is required for ppl cell protrusion formation and migration and that spatiotemporally restricted ectopic activation is capable of redirecting their migration. Finally, we show that uniform activation of Fz7 signaling in ppl cells fully rescues defective directed cell migration in fz7 mutant embryos. Together, our findings reveal that in contrast to the situation in epithelial cells, non-canonical Wnt signaling functions permissively rather than instructively in directed mesenchymal cell migration during gastrulation.


Wnt; cell biology; cell migration; developmental biology; optogenetics; planar cell polarity; polarity; protrusion formation; zebrafish

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