Members of the Wnt signaling family are important mediators of numerous developmental events, including activity-dependent dendrite development, but the pathways regulating expression and secretion of Wnt in response to neuronal activity are poorly defined. Here, we identify an NMDA receptor-mediated, Ca2+-dependent signaling pathway that couples neuronal activity to dendritic arborization through enhanced Wnt synthesis and secretion. Activity-dependent dendritic outgrowth and branching in cultured hippocampal neurons and slices is mediated through activation by CaM-dependent protein kinase kinase (CaMKK) of the membrane-associated γ isoform of CaMKI. Downstream effectors of CaMKI include the MAP-kinase pathway of Ras/MEK/ERK and the transcription factor CREB. A serial analysis of chromatin occupancy screen identified Wnt-2 as an activity-dependent CREB-responsive gene. Neuronal activity enhances CREB-dependent transcription of Wnt-2, and expression of Wnt-2 stimulates dendritic arborization. This novel signaling pathway contributes to dynamic remodeling of the dendritic architecture in response to neuronal activity during development.
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