The Wnt signaling is classified as two distinct pathways of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling, and the non-canonical pathways of planar cell polarity and Wnt/Ca2+ pathways. However, the scientific discoveries in recent years have shown that canonical and noncanonical Wnts pathways are intertwined and have complex interaction with other major signaling pathways such as hedgehog, Hippo and TOR signaling. Wnt signaling plays important roles in cell proliferation, differentiation and migration during embryonic development. The impairment of these pathways during embryonic development often leads to major congenital defects. In adult organisms Wnt expression is more restricted to proliferating tissues, where it plays a key role in tissue regeneration. In addition, the disruption of homeostatic processes of multicellular organisms may give rise to reactivation and/or altered activation of Wnt signaling, leading to development of malignant tumors and chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes and adult cardiovascular diseases.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death in the world. The disease is the consequences of two distinct disease processes: Atherosclerosis, a primarily inflammatory disease and plaque erosion, a disease process associated with endothelial cell defect and smooth muscle proliferation with only modest contribution of inflammatory cells. The atherosclerosis is itself a multifactorial disease that is initiated by lipid deposition and endothelial dysfunction, triggering vascular inflammation via recruitment and aggregation of monocytes and their transformation to foam cell by the uptake of modified low-density lipoprotein (LDL), culminating in an atheromatous plaque core formation. Further accumulation of lipids, infiltration and proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and extracellular matrix deposition result in intimal hyperplasia. Myocardial infarction is the ultimate consequence of these processes and is caused by plaque rupture and hypercoagulation. In vivo studies have established the role of the Wnt pathway in all phases of atherosclerosis development, though much remains unknown or controversial. Less is known about the mechanisms that induce plaque erosion. The limited evidence in mouse models of Wnt coreceptor LRP6 mutation and heterozygous TCF7L2 knock out mice implicate altered Wnt signaling also in the pathogenesis of plaque erosion. In this article we focus and review the role of the Wnt pathway in CAD pathophysiology from clinical and experimental standpoints.
Wnt signaling, β-catenin, Cardiovascular disease, Atherosclerosis, VSMCs, Endothelial dysfunction, Hyperlipidemia, Metabolic syndrome, Diabetes, Myocardial infarction