Canonical Wnt Signaling Modulates the Expression of Pre- and Postsynaptic Components in Different Temporal Patterns

  • Milka Martinez
  • Viviana I. Torres
  • Carlos P. Vio
  • Nibaldo C. InestrosaEmail author


Wnt ligands play critical roles in neuronal development, synapse formation, synaptic activity, and plasticity. Synaptic plasticity requires molecular remodeling of synapses, implying the expression of key synaptic components. Some studies have linked Wnt signaling activity to changes in synaptic protein levels. However, the presynaptic and postsynaptic gene expression profiles of hippocampal neurons exposed to Wnt proteins have not been studied. Hence, we treated rat cultured hippocampal neurons with recombinant Wnt3a, lithium, and the Wnt inhibitor Dkk-1 for different treatment durations and measured the mRNA and protein levels of pre- and postsynaptic components. The ligand Wnt3a promoted the differential temporal expression of genes encoding presynaptic and postsynaptic proteins. Gene expression of the presynaptic proteins Rim1, piccolo (Pclo), Erc2, Ctbp1 and Rimbp2 increased in a specific temporal pattern. Simultaneously, the mRNA and protein levels of postsynaptic components showed a different temporal expression pattern, e.g., the mRNAs for postsynaptic scaffolding components such as postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95/Dlg4), Homer1 and Shank1 were temporally regulated by both Wnt3a and lithium. On the other hand, the mRNA levels of the gene encoding the protein calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IV (Camk4), canonically upregulated by Wnt, were increased. Our results suggest that Wnt signaling orchestrates expressional changes in genes encoding presynaptic and postsynaptic components, probably as part of a synaptic plasticity mechanism in neurons.


Canonical Wnt signaling Genes encoding presynaptic proteins Genes encoding postsynaptic proteins, hippocampus. 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Enrique Brandan for sharing the microplate spectrophotometer (BioTek) with us. This work was supported by grants from the Basal Center of Excellence in Aging and Regeneration (CONICYT-AFB 170005) to N.C.I. and FONDECYT (no. 1160724) to N.C.I. We also thank the Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM) for the special grant “The Role of Lithium in Human Health and Disease”.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest concerning the contents of this article.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Envejecimiento y Regeneración (CARE UC), Facultad de Ciencias BiológicasPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Centro de Excelencia en Biomedicina de Magallanes (CEBIMA)Universidad de MagallanesPunta ArenasChile

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