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J Cell Sci Suppl. 1993;17:183-8.

Responses to Wnt signals in vertebrate embryos may involve changes in cell adhesion and cell movement.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 98195.


Wnt genes encode secreted glycoproteins, and, because of their homology with the Drosophila segment polarity gene wingless, are likely to play important roles as modulators of local intercellular signalling during embryonic development. Although little is known of the mechanisms by which Wnts signal in an autocrine or paracrine manner, it is increasingly clear that cells can respond rapidly to Wnt signals in the absence of transcription, and that these responses may include changes in cell adhesion and cell movement. We review recent evidence from studies on Xenopus laevis and other systems, which demonstrate that (1) a subset of Wnts modulate gap junctional permeability, which may be a reflection of changes in cadherin-mediated cell adhesion, (2) embryos express beta-catenin and plakoglobin, which are homologs of the armadillo gene products, known to be involved in the wingless signalling pathway, and known to be found at cell junctions, and (3) overexpression of specific Wnts in Xenopus embryos leads to clear changes in cell behavior and movement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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