Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Wnt5 signaling in vertebrate pancreas development

Hyon J Kim12, Jack R Schleiffarth3, Jose Jessurun4, Saulius Sumanas2, Anna Petryk13, Shuo Lin2 and Stephen C Ekker1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455 USA

2 Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095 USA

3 Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455 USA

4 Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455 USA

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BMC Biology 2005, 3:23  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-3-23

Published: 24 October 2005



Signaling by the Wnt family of secreted glycoproteins through their receptors, the frizzled (Fz) family of seven-pass transmembrane proteins, is critical for numerous cell fate and tissue polarity decisions during development.


We report a novel role of Wnt signaling in organogenesis using the formation of the islet during pancreatic development as a model tissue. We used the advantages of the zebrafish to visualize and document this process in living embryos and demonstrated that insulin-positive cells actively migrate to form an islet. We used morpholinos (MOs), sequence-specific translational inhibitors, and time-lapse imaging analysis to show that the Wnt-5 ligand and the Fz-2 receptor are required for proper insulin-cell migration in zebrafish. Histological analyses of islets in Wnt5a-/- mouse embryos showed that Wnt5a signaling is also critical for murine pancreatic insulin-cell migration.


Our results implicate a conserved role of a Wnt5/Fz2 signaling pathway in islet formation during pancreatic development. This study opens the door for further investigation into a role of Wnt signaling in vertebrate organ development and disease.