Wnt signaling in mammalian development: lessons from mouse genetics.
Wnts are evolutionarily conserved signaling ligands critical for animal development. Genetic engineering in the mouse has enabled investigators to acquire a detailed activation profile of the β-catenin-dependent canonical Wnt pathway during mouse development, and to manipulate Wnt pathway activities with great spatial and temporal precision. Together, these studies have not only revealed important functions of Wnt signaling at multiple stages of early mouse development, but also elucidated how the Wnt pathway interacts with other pathways to form signaling networks that confer the unique features of mammalian embryogenesis. Additionally, the planar cell polarity pathway has emerged as an essential β-catenin independent noncanonical Wnt pathway that coordinates cell polarity and regulates tissue morphogenesis in various mammalian developmental processes. Importantly, studies of Wnt signaling in mouse development have also revealed important pathogenic mechanisms of several congenital disorders in humans.