Activity-dependent Wnt 7 dendritic targeting in hippocampal neurons: Plasticity- and tagging-related retrograde signaling mechanism?

Nino Tabatadze, Rhona Mcgonigal, Rachel L. Neve, Aryeh Routtenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Wnt proteins have emerged as transmembrane signaling molecules that regulate learning and memory as well as synaptic plasticity at central synapses (Inestrosa and Arenas (2010) Nat Rev Neurosci 11:77-86; Maguschak and Ressler (2011) J Neurosci 31:13057-13067; Tabatadze et al. (2012) Hippocampus 22: 1228-1241; Fortress et al. (2013) J Neurosci 33:12619-12626). For example, there is both a training-selective and Wnt isoform-specific increase in Wnt 7 levels in hippocampus seven days after spatial learning in rats (Tabatadze et al. (2012) Hippocampus 22: 1228-1241). Despite growing interest in Wnt signaling pathways in the adult brain, intracellular distribution and release of Wnt molecules from synaptic compartments as well as their influence on synaptic strength and connectivity remain less well understood. As a first step in such an analysis, we show here that Wnt 7 levels in primary hippocampal cells are elevated by potassium or glutamate activation in a time-dependent manner. Subsequent Wnt 7 elevation in dendrites suggests selective somato-dendritic trafficking followed by transport from dendrites to their spines. Wnt 7 elevation is also TTX-reversible, establishing that its elevation is indeed an activity-dependent process. A second stimulation given 6 h after the first significantly reduces Wnt 7 levels in dendrites 3 h later as compared to non-stimulated controls suggesting activity-dependent Wnt 7 release from dendrites and spines. In a related experiment designed to mimic the release of Wnt 7, exogenous recombinant Wnt 7 increased the number of active zones in presynaptic terminals as indexed by bassoon. This suggests the formation of new presynaptic release sites and/or presynaptic terminals. Wnt signaling inhibitor sFRP-1 completely blocked this Wnt 7-induced elevation of bassoon cluster number and cluster area. We suggest that Wnt 7 is a plasticity-related protein involved in the regulation of presynaptic plasticity via a retrograde signaling mechanism as previously proposed (Routtenberg (1999) Trends in Neuroscience 22:255-256). These findings provide support for this proposal, which offers a new perspective on the synaptic tagging mechanism (Redondo and Morris (2011) Nat Rev Neurosci 12:17-30).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-465
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Synaptic tagging
  • Wnt signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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