Date: 08 Sep 2006

Wnt signaling and osteoblastogenesis

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Wnts are a large family of growth factors that mediate fundamental biological processes like embryogenesis, organogenesis and tumorigenesis. These proteins bind to a membrane receptor complex comprised of a frizzled (FZD) G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCRs) and a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor-related protein (LRP). The formation of this ligand-receptor complex initiates a number of intracellular signaling cascades that includes the canonical/β-catenin pathway, as well as several GPCR-mediated noncanonical pathways. In recent years, canonical Wnt signaling has been shown to play a substantial role in the control of bone formation. Clinical investigations have found that mutations in LRP-5 are associated with bone mineral density and fractures. For example, loss-of-function mutations in LRP-5 cause osteoporosis pseudoglioma syndrome, while gain-of-function mutations lead to high bone mass phenotypes. Studies of knockout and transgenic mouse models for Wnt pathway components like Wnt-10b, LRP-5/6, secreted frizzled-related protein-1, dickkopf-2, Axin-2 and β-catenin have demonstrated that canonical signaling modulates most aspects of osteoblast physiology including proliferation, differentiation, bone matrix formation/mineralization and apoptosis as well as coupling to osteoclastogenesis and bone resorption. Future studies in this rapidly growing area of research should focus on elucidating Wnt/FZD specificity in the control of bone cell function, the role of noncanonical pathways in skeletal remodeling, and direct effects of Wnts on cells of the osteoclast lineage.