Synaptic development, function and plasticity are highly regulated processes requiring a precise coordination of pre- and postsynaptic events. Recent studies have begun to highlight Wingless-Int (Wnt) signaling as a key player in synapse differentiation and function. Emerging roles of Wnts include the differentiation of synaptic specializations, microtubule dynamics, architecture of synaptic protein organization, modulation of synaptic efficacy and regulation of gene expression. These processes are driven by a variety of Wnt transduction pathways. Combined with a myriad of Wnts and Frizzled receptor family members, these pathways highlight the versatility of Wnt signaling and the potential for combinatorial use of these pathways in different aspects of synapse development and function. The identification of neurons secreting Wnt and those containing molecular components downstream of Frizzled receptors indicates that Wnts can function both as anterograde and retrograde signals. These studies open new avenues for understanding how embryonic morphogens are utilized during the development and function of synaptic networks.
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