Wnt signaling regulates a multitude of critical processes in development and tissue homeostasis. The wingless (wg) gene product was first identified in Drosophila in 1973. Subsequently, the proto-oncogene INT-1 was identified in mice in 1984 when its activation by mouse mammary tumor virus proviral insertion was found to induce tumor formation. The discovery in 1987 that wg and INT-1 are orthologues contributed to an appreciation of the intimate connection between oncogenic and developmental processes. Diverse diseases including cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and psychiatric disorders may be amenable to treatment via modulation of Wnt-mediated signaling pathways. There are a number of attractive targets that are the object of ongoing drug development studies aiming to capitalize on these opportunities. In this review, we present a historical overview of key events in this field that have elucidated the known signaling cascades associated with Wnt ligands and shaped our understanding of the roles of these cascades in physiological and pathological processes.
Program in Cancer and Stem Cell Biology, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, 2 Jalan Bukit Merah, Singapore 169547.