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1.  Wnt Signaling in Vertebrate Neural Development and Function 
Members of the Wnt family of secreted signaling proteins influence many aspects of neural development and function. Wnts are required from neural induction and axis formation to axon guidance and synapse development, and even help modulate synapse activity. Wnt proteins activate a variety of downstream signaling pathways and can induce a similar variety of cellular responses, including gene transcription changes and cytoskeletal rearrangements. This review provides an introduction to Wnt signaling pathways and discusses current research on their roles in vertebrate neural development and function.
doi:10.1007/s11481-012-9404-x
PMCID: PMC3518582  PMID: 23015196
Wnt signaling; Neural development; CNS patterning; Axon guidance; Dendrite growth; Synapse formation; Synapse function
2.  Dapper Antagonist of Catenin-1 Cooperates with Dishevelled-1 during Postsynaptic Development in Mouse Forebrain GABAergic Interneurons 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67679.
Synaptogenesis has been extensively studied along with dendritic spine development in glutamatergic pyramidal neurons, however synapse development in cortical interneurons, which are largely aspiny, is comparatively less well understood. Dact1, one of 3 paralogous Dact (Dapper/Frodo) family members in mammals, is a scaffold protein implicated in both the Wnt/β-catenin and the Wnt/Planar Cell Polarity pathways. We show here that Dact1 is expressed in immature cortical interneurons. Although Dact1 is first expressed in interneuron precursors during proliferative and migratory stages, constitutive Dact1 mutant mice have no major defects in numbers or migration of these neurons. However, cultured cortical interneurons derived from these mice have reduced numbers of excitatory synapses on their dendrites. We selectively eliminated Dact1 from mouse cortical interneurons using a conditional knock-out strategy with a Dlx-I12b enhancer-Cre allele, and thereby demonstrate a cell-autonomous role for Dact1 during postsynaptic development. Confirming this cell-autonomous role, we show that synapse numbers in Dact1 deficient cortical interneurons are rescued by virally-mediated re-expression of Dact1 specifically targeted to these cells. Synapse numbers in these neurons are also rescued by similarly targeted expression of the Dact1 binding partner Dishevelled-1, and partially rescued by expression of Disrupted in Schizophrenia-1, a synaptic protein genetically implicated in susceptibility to several major mental illnesses. In sum, our results support a novel cell-autonomous postsynaptic role for Dact1, in cooperation with Dishevelled-1 and possibly Disrupted in Schizophrenia-1, in the formation of synapses on cortical interneuron dendrites.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067679
PMCID: PMC3691262  PMID: 23826333
3.  Synaptic Wnt signaling—a contributor to major psychiatric disorders? 
Wnt signaling is a key pathway that helps organize development of the nervous system. It influences cell proliferation, cell fate, and cell migration in the developing nervous system, as well as axon guidance, dendrite development, and synapse formation. Given this wide range of roles, dysregulation of Wnt signaling could have any number of deleterious effects on neural development and thereby contribute in many different ways to the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders. Some major psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders, are coming to be understood as subtle dysregulations of nervous system development, particularly of synapse formation and maintenance. This review will therefore touch on the importance of Wnt signaling to neurodevelopment generally, while focusing on accumulating evidence for a synaptic role of Wnt signaling. These observations will be discussed in the context of current understanding of the neurodevelopmental bases of major psychiatric diseases, spotlighting schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. In short, this review will focus on the potential role of synapse formation and maintenance in major psychiatric disorders and summarize evidence that defective Wnt signaling could contribute to their pathogenesis via effects on these late neural differentiation processes.
doi:10.1007/s11689-011-9083-6
PMCID: PMC3180925  PMID: 21533542
Wnt; Synapse; Schizophrenia; Bipolar disorder; Autism spectrum disorders
4.  Synaptic Wnt signaling—a contributor to major psychiatric disorders? 
Wnt signaling is a key pathway that helps organize development of the nervous system. It influences cell proliferation, cell fate, and cell migration in the developing nervous system, as well as axon guidance, dendrite development, and synapse formation. Given this wide range of roles, dysregulation of Wnt signaling could have any number of deleterious effects on neural development and thereby contribute in many different ways to the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders. Some major psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders, are coming to be understood as subtle dysregulations of nervous system development, particularly of synapse formation and maintenance. This review will therefore touch on the importance of Wnt signaling to neurodevelopment generally, while focusing on accumulating evidence for a synaptic role of Wnt signaling. These observations will be discussed in the context of current understanding of the neurodevelopmental bases of major psychiatric diseases, spotlighting schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. In short, this review will focus on the potential role of synapse formation and maintenance in major psychiatric disorders and summarize evidence that defective Wnt signaling could contribute to their pathogenesis via effects on these late neural differentiation processes.
doi:10.1007/s11689-011-9083-6
PMCID: PMC3180925  PMID: 21533542
Wnt; Synapse; Schizophrenia; Bipolar disorder; Autism spectrum disorders
5.  Dact1-3 mRNAs exhibit distinct expression domains during tooth development 
Gene expression patterns : GEP  2010;10(2-3):140-143.
Wnt signaling is essential for tooth formation. Dact proteins modulate Wnt signaling by binding to the intracellular protein Dishevelled (Dvl). Comparison of all known mouse Dact genes, Dact1-3, from the morphological initiation of mandibular first molar development after the onset of the root formation using sectional in situ hybridization showed distinct, complementary and overlapping expression patterns for the studied genes. While Dact2 expression was restricted to the dental epithelium including the enamel knot signaling centers and tooth specific preameloblasts, Dact1 and Dact3 showed developmentally regulated expression in the dental mesenchyme. Both mRNAs were first detected in the presumptive dental mesenchyme. After being downregulated from the condensed dental mesenchyme of the bud stage tooth germ, Dact1 was upregulated in the dental follicle masenchyme at the cap stage and subsequently also in the dental papilla at the bell stage where the expression persisted to the postnatal stages. In contrast, Dact3 transcripts persisted throughout the dental mesenchymal tissue components including the tooth-specific cells, preodontoblasts before transcripts were largely downregulated from the tooth germ postnatally. Collectively these results suggest that Dact1 and -3 may contribute to early tooth formation by modulation of Wnt signaling pathways in the mesenchyme, including preodontoblasts, whereas Dact2 may play important signal-modulating roles in the adjacent epithelial cells including the enamel knot signaling centers and preameloblasts. Future loss-of-function studies will help elucidate whether any of these functions are redundant, particularly for Dact1 and Dact3.
doi:10.1016/j.gep.2010.02.002
PMCID: PMC2849867  PMID: 20170752
6.  Dact1 is a postsynaptic protein required for dendrite, spine, and excitatory synapse development in the mouse forebrain 
Dact1 (Dapper/Frodo), an intracellular phosphoprotein that binds Dishevelled, catenins, and other signaling proteins, is expressed in the developing and mature mammalian central nervous system, but its function there is unknown. Dact1 colocalized with synaptic markers and partitioned to postsynaptic fractions from cultured mouse forebrain neurons. Hippocampal neurons from Dact1 knockout mice had simpler dendritic arbors and fewer spines than hippocampal neurons from wild type littermates. This correlated with reductions in excitatory synapses and miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents, whereas inhibitory synapses were not affected. Loss of Dact1 resulted in a decrease in activated Rac, and recombinant expression of either Dact1 or constitutively active Rac, but not Rho or Cdc42, rescued dendrite and spine phenotypes in Dact1 mutant neurons. Our findings suggest that during neuronal differentiation Dact1 plays a critical role in a molecular pathway promoting Rac activity underlying the elaboration of dendrites and the establishment of spines and excitatory synapses.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0354-10.2010
PMCID: PMC2848693  PMID: 20335472
Dendritic spine; Synapse; Rac; Dendrite; Forebrain; Hippocampus
7.  Posterior Malformations in Dact1 mutant mice arise through misregulated Vangl2 at the Primitive Streak 
Nature genetics  2009;41(9):977-985.
Mice homozygous for mutations in Dact1 (Dpr/Frodo) phenocopy human malformations involving the spine, genitourinary system, and distal digestive tract. We trace this phenotype to disrupted germ layer morphogenesis at the primitive streak (PS). Remarkably, heterozygous mutation of Vangl2, a transmembrane component of the Planar Cell Polarity (PCP) pathway, rescues recessive Dact1 phenotypes, whereas loss of Dact1 reciprocally rescues semidominant Vangl2 phenotypes. We show that Dact1, an intracellular protein, forms a complex with Vangl2. In Dact1 mutants, Vangl2 is increased at the PS where cells ordinarily undergo an epithelial-mesenchymal transition. This is associated with abnormal E-cadherin distribution and changes in biochemical measures of the PCP pathway. We conclude that Dact1 contributes to morphogenesis at the PS by regulating Vangl2 upstream of cell adhesion and the PCP pathway.
doi:10.1038/ng.435
PMCID: PMC2733921  PMID: 19701191
Dact (Dapper Frodo); Vangl2 (Van Gogh Strabismus); PCP; Wnt; spina bifida; caudal regression; OEIS; primitive streak
8.  Dact1, a Nutritionally Regulated Preadipocyte Gene, Controls Adipogenesis by Coordinating the Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling Network 
Diabetes  2009;58(3):609-619.
OBJECTIVE—Wnt signaling inhibits adipogenesis, but its regulation, physiological relevance, and molecular effectors are poorly understood. Here, we identify the Wnt modulator Dapper1/Frodo1 (Dact1) as a new preadipocyte gene involved in the regulation of murine and human adipogenesis.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—Changes in Dact1 expression were investigated in three in vitro models of adipogenesis. In vitro gain- and loss-of-function studies were used to investigate the mechanism of Dact1 action during adipogenesis. The in vivo regulation of Dact1 and Wnt/β-catenin signaling were investigated in murine models of altered nutritional status, of pharmacological stimulation of in vivo adipogenesis, and during the development of dietary and genetic obesity.
RESULTS—Dact1 is a preadipocyte gene that decreases during adipogenesis. However, Dact1 knockdown impairs adipogenesis through activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, and this is reversed by treatment with the secreted Wnt antagonist, secreted Frizzled-related protein 1 (Sfrp1). In contrast, constitutive Dact1 overexpression promotes adipogenesis and confers resistance to Wnt ligand-induced antiadipogenesis through increased expression of endogenous Sfrps and reduced expression of Wnts. In vivo, in white adipose tissue, Dact1 and Wnt/β-catenin signaling also exhibit coordinated expression profiles in response to altered nutritional status, in response to pharmacological stimulation of in vivo adipogenesis, and during the development of dietary and genetic obesity.
CONCLUSIONS—Dact1 regulates adipogenesis through coordinated effects on gene expression that selectively alter intracellular and paracrine/autocrine components of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. These novel insights into the molecular mechanisms controlling adipose tissue plasticity provide a functional network with therapeutic potential against diseases, such as obesity and associated metabolic disorders.
doi:10.2337/db08-1180
PMCID: PMC2646059  PMID: 19073771
9.  Modulation of the β-Catenin Signaling Pathway by the Dishevelled-Associated Protein Hipk1 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4310.
Background
Wnts are evolutionarily conserved ligands that signal through β-catenin-dependent and β-catenin–independent pathways to regulate cell fate, proliferation, polarity, and movements during vertebrate development. Dishevelled (Dsh/Dvl) is a multi-domain scaffold protein required for virtually all known Wnt signaling activities, raising interest in the identification and functions of Dsh-associated proteins.
Methodology
We conducted a yeast-2-hybrid screen using an N-terminal fragment of Dsh, resulting in isolation of the Xenopus laevis ortholog of Hipk1. Interaction between the Dsh and Hipk1 proteins was confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation assays and mass spectrometry, and further experiments suggest that Hipk1 also complexes with the transcription factor Tcf3. Supporting a nuclear function during X. laevis development, Myc-tagged Hipk1 localizes primarily to the nucleus in animal cap explants, and the endogenous transcript is strongly expressed during gastrula and neurula stages. Experimental manipulations of Hipk1 levels indicate that Hipk1 can repress Wnt/β-catenin target gene activation, as demonstrated by β-catenin reporter assays in human embryonic kidney cells and by indicators of dorsal specification in X. laevis embryos at the late blastula stage. In addition, a subset of Wnt-responsive genes subsequently requires Hipk1 for activation in the involuting mesoderm during gastrulation. Moreover, either over-expression or knock-down of Hipk1 leads to perturbed convergent extension cell movements involved in both gastrulation and neural tube closure.
Conclusions
These results suggest that Hipk1 contributes in a complex fashion to Dsh-dependent signaling activities during early vertebrate development. This includes regulating the transcription of Wnt/β-catenin target genes in the nucleus, possibly in both repressive and activating ways under changing developmental contexts. This regulation is required to modulate gene expression and cell movements that are essential for gastrulation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004310
PMCID: PMC2629544  PMID: 19183803
10.  DACT3 is an epigenetic regulator of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in colorectal cancer and is a therapeutic target of histone modifications 
Cancer cell  2008;13(6):529-541.
Summary
Genetic and epigenetic defects in Wnt/β-catenin signaling play important roles in colorectal cancer progression. Here we identify DACT3, a member of the DACT (Dpr/Frodo) gene family, as a negative regulator of Wnt/β-catenin signaling that is transcriptionally repressed in colorectal cancer. Unlike other Wnt signaling inhibitors that are silenced by DNA methylation, DACT3 repression is associated with bivalent histone modifications. Remarkably, DACT3 expression can be robustly de-repressed by a pharmacological combination that simultaneously targets both histone methylation and deacetylation, leading to strong inhibition of Dishevelled (Dvl)-mediated Wnt/β-catenin signaling and massive apoptosis of colorectal cancer cells. Our study identifies DACT3 as an important regulator of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in colorectal cancer and suggests a potential strategy for therapeutic control of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in colorectal cancer.
doi:10.1016/j.ccr.2008.04.019
PMCID: PMC2577847  PMID: 18538736

Results 1-10 (10)