Canonical and noncanonical Wnts use a common mechanism to activate completely unrelated coreceptors

L Grumolato, G Liu, P Mong, R Mudbhary, R Biswas, R Arroyave, S Vijayakumar, A. N Economides and S. A. Aaronson

Genes & Development, 2010, 24(22), 2517-2530. DOI: 10.1101/gad.1957710


Wnt ligands signal through β-catenin and are critically involved in cell fate determination and stem/progenitor self-renewal. Wnts also signal through β-catenin-independent or noncanonical pathways that regulate crucial events during embryonic development. The mechanism of noncanonical receptor activation and how Wnts trigger canonical as opposed to noncanonical signaling have yet to be elucidated. We demonstrate here that prototype canonical Wnt3a and noncanonical Wnt5a ligands specifically trigger completely unrelated endogenous coreceptors—LRP5/6 and Ror1/2, respectively—through a common mechanism that involves their Wnt-dependent coupling to the Frizzled (Fzd) coreceptor and recruitment of shared components, including dishevelled (Dvl), axin, and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3). We identify Ror2 Ser 864 as a critical residue phosphorylated by GSK3 and required for noncanonical receptor activation by Wnt5a, analogous to the priming phosphorylation of low-density receptor-related protein 6 (LRP6) in response to Wnt3a. Furthermore, this mechanism is independent of Ror2 receptor Tyr kinase functions. Consistent with this model of Wnt receptor activation, we provide evidence that canonical and noncanonical Wnts exert reciprocal pathway inhibition at the cell surface by competition for Fzd binding. Thus, different Wnts, through their specific coupling and phosphorylation of unrelated coreceptors, activate completely distinct signaling pathways.

ASCI-ID: 1332-342