Research Article

Structural Basis of Wnt Recognition by Frizzled

Science  31 May 2012:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1222879

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Abstract

Wnts are lipid-modified morphogens that play critical roles in development principally through engagement of Frizzled receptors. The 3.25 Å structure of Xenopus Wnt8 (XWnt8) in complex with mouse Frizzled-8 cysteine-rich domain (CRD) reveals an unusual two-domain Wnt structure, not obviously related to known protein folds, resembling a “hand” with “thumb” and “index” fingers extended to grasp the Fz8-CRD at two distinct binding sites. One site is dominated by a palmitoleic acid lipid group projecting from Serine 187 at the tip of Wnt’s thumb into a deep groove in the Fz8-CRD. In the second binding site, the conserved tip of Wnt’s "index finger" forms hydrophobic amino acid contacts with a depression on the opposite side of the Fz8-CRD. The conservation of amino acids in both interfaces appears to facilitate ligand-receptor cross-reactivity, which has important implications for understanding Wnt’s functional pleiotropy and for developing Wnt-based drugs for cancer and regenerative medicine.

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