Wnt transmembrane signaling and long-term spatial memory

Nino Tabatadze, Caroline Tomas, Rhona McGonigal, Brian Lin, Andrew Schook, Aryeh Routtenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Transmembrane signaling mechanisms are critical for regulating the plasticity of neuronal connections underlying the establishment of long-lasting memory (e.g., Linden and Routtenberg (1989) Brain Res Rev 14:279-296; Sossin (1996) Trends Neurosci 19:215-218; Mayr and Montminy (2001) Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 2:599-609; Chen et al. (2011) Nature 469:491-497). One signaling mechanism that has received surprisingly little attention in this regard is the well-known Wnt transmembrane signaling pathway even though this pathway in the adult plays a significant role, for example, in postsynaptic dendritic spine morphogenesis and presynaptic terminal neurotransmitter release (Inestrosa and Arenas (2010) Nat Rev Neurosci 11:77-86). The present report now provides the first evidence of Wnt signaling in spatial information storage processes. Importantly, this Wnt participation is specific and selective. Thus, spatial, but not cued, learning in a water maze selectively elevates the levels in hippocampus of Wnt 7 and Wnt 5a, but not the Wnt 3 isoform, indicating behavioral selectivity and isoform specificity. Wnt 7 elevation is subfield-specific: granule cells show an increase with no detectable change in CA3 neurons. Wnt 7 elevation is temporally specific: increased Wnt signaling is not observed during training, but is seen 7 days and, unexpectedly, 30 days later. If the Wnt elevation after learning is activity-dependent, then it may be possible to model this effect in primary hippocampal neurons in culture. Here, we evaluate the consequence of potassium or glutamate depolarization on Wnt signaling. This represents, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of an activation-dependent elevation of Wnt levels and surprisingly an increased number of Wnt-stained puncta in neurites suggestive of trafficking from the cell body to neuronal processes, probably dendrites. It is proposed that Wnt signaling pathways regulate long-term information storage in a behavioral-, cellular-, and isoform-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1228-1241
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Dentate gyrus
  • Hippocampus
  • Protein trafficking
  • Synaptophysin
  • Water maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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