Wnt signaling in the vasculature.

PMID 12549854


The Wnt signaling pathway regulates normal development as well as a variety of pathologies. Studies of the Wnt pathway have focused largely on very early development and on tumorigenesis. Recent observations point to a role for Wnt signaling in vessel development and pathology. Although not yet investigated systematically, several Wnt ligands have been demonstrated to be expressed in the cells of blood vessels in vivo and in vitro, including Wnt-2, -5a, -7a and -10b. Mice deficient for Wnt-2 display vascular abnormalities including defective placental vasculature. Wnt receptors, called frizzled (Fz), are also expressed by vascular cells in culture and in situ. Of the 10 murine Fz identified to date, Fz-1, -2, -3, and -5 have been demonstrated in endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells; mice deficient for Fz-5 display vascular abnormalities and are embryonic lethal. Two soluble, naturally occurring Wnt antagonists, frizzled-related proteins (FRP)-1 and -3, are also expressed by vascular cells. Stabilization of the downstream signaling component beta-catenin in blood vessels has been demonstrated in several developmental and pathologic states, further supporting the idea that Wnt signaling plays an important regulatory role in the vasculature.