Wnt signaling promotes AChR aggregation at the neuromuscular synapse in collaboration with agrin

Juan P. Henriquez, Anna Webb, Matthew Bence, Heidi Bildsoe, Macarena Sahores, Simon M. Hughes, Patricia C. Salinas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Citations (Scopus)


Wnt proteins regulate the formation of central synapses by stimulating synaptic assembly, but their role at the vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is unclear. Wnt3 is expressed by lateral motoneurons of the spinal cord during the period of motoneuron-muscle innervation. Using gain- and loss-of-function studies in the chick wing, we demonstrate that Wnt signaling is necessary for the formation of acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clusters without affecting muscle growth. Similarly, diaphragms from Dishevelled-1 mutant mice with deficiency in Wnt signaling exhibit defects in cluster distribution. In cultured myotubes, Wnt3 increases the number and size of AChR clusters induced by agrin, a nerve-derived signal critical for NMJ development. Wnt3 does not signal through the canonical Wnt pathway to induce cluster formation. Instead, Wnt3 induces the rapid formation of unstable AChR micro-clusters through activation of Rac1, which aggregate into large clusters only in the presence of agrin. Our data reveal a role for Writs in post-synaptic assembly at the vertebrate NMJ by enhancing agrin function through Rac1 activation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18812 - 18817
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2008


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