Planar cell polarity (PCP) organizes the orientation of cellular protrusions and migratory activity within the tissue plane. PCP establishment involves the subcellular polarization of core PCP components. It has been suggested that Wnt gradients could provide a global cue that coordinates local PCP with tissue axes. Here, we dissect the role of Wnt ligands in the orientation of hairs of Drosophila wings, an established system for the study of PCP. We found that PCP was normal in quintuple mutant wings that rely solely on the membrane-tethered Wingless for Wnt signaling, suggesting that a Wnt gradient is not required. We then used a nanobody-based approach to trap Wntless in the endoplasmic reticulum, and hence prevent all Wnt secretion, specifically during the period of PCP establishment. PCP was still established. We conclude that, even though Wnt ligands could contribute to PCP, they are not essential, and another global cue must exist for tissue-wide polarization.
A relatively small number of proteins have been suggested to act as morphogens-signalling molecules that spread within tissues to organize tissue repair and the specification of cell fate during development. Among them are Wnt proteins, which carry a palmitoleate moiety that is essential for signalling activity. How a hydrophobic lipoprotein can spread in the aqueous extracellular space is unknown. Several mechanisms, such as those involving lipoprotein particles, exosomes or a specific chaperone, have been proposed to overcome this so-called Wnt solubility problem. Here we provide evidence against these models and show that the Wnt lipid is shielded by the core domain of a subclass of glypicans defined by the Dally-like protein (Dlp). Structural analysis shows that, in the presence of palmitoleoylated peptides, these glypicans change conformation to create a hydrophobic space. Thus, glypicans of the Dlp family protect the lipid of Wnt proteins from the aqueous environment and serve as a reservoir from which Wnt proteins can be handed over to signalling receptors.
Wntless transports Wnt morphogens to the cell surface and is required for Wnt secretion and morphogenic gradients formation. Recycling of endocytosed Wntless requires the sorting nexin-3 (SNX3)-retromer-dependent endosome-to-Golgi transport pathway. Here we demonstrate the essential role of SNX3-retromer assembly for Wntless transport and report that SNX3 associates with an evolutionary conserved endosome-associated membrane re-modelling complex composed of MON2, DOPEY2 and the putative aminophospholipid translocase, ATP9A. In vivo suppression of Ce-mon-2, Ce-pad-1 or Ce-tat-5 (respective MON2, DOPEY2 and ATP9A orthologues) phenocopy a loss of SNX3-retromer function, leading to enhanced lysosomal degradation of Wntless and a Wnt phenotype. Perturbed Wnt signalling is also observed upon overexpression of an ATPase-inhibited TAT-5(E246Q) mutant, suggesting a role for phospholipid flippase activity during SNX3-retromer-mediated Wntless sorting. Together, these findings provide in vitro and in vivo mechanistic details to describe SNX3-retromer-mediated transport during Wnt secretion and the formation of Wnt-morphogenic gradients.
The scaffold protein APC has a well-known function in ensuring β-catenin destruction. In this issue of Developmental Cell, Saito-Diaz et al. (2018) uncover another role for APC in Wnt signaling: to prevent clathrin-dependent signalosome formation in the absence of ligand.
In order to achieve coordinated growth and patterning during development, cells must communicate with one another, sending and receiving signals that regulate their activities. Such developmental signals can be soluble, bound to the extracellular matrix, or tethered to the surface of adjacent cells. Cells can also signal by releasing exosomes - extracellular vesicles containing bioactive molecules such as RNA, DNA and enzymes. Recent work has suggested that exosomes can also carry signalling proteins, including ligands of the Notch receptor and secreted proteins of the Hedgehog and WNT families. Here, we describe the various types of exosomes and their biogenesis. We then survey the experimental strategies used so far to interfere with exosome formation and critically assess the role of exosomes in developmental signalling.