Wnt-3a and Wnt-3 differently stimulate proliferation and neurogenesis of spinal neural precursors and promote neurite outgrowth by canonical signaling
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Wnt factors regulate neural stem cell development and neuronal connectivity. Here we investigated whether Wnt-3a and Wnt-3, expressed in the developing spinal cord, regulate proliferation and the neuronal differentiation of spinal cord neural precursors (SCNP). Wnt-3a promoted a sustained increase of SCNP proliferation, whereas Wnt-3 enhanced SCNP proliferation transiently and increased neurogenesis through β-catenin signaling. Consistent with this, Wnt-3a and Wnt-3 differently regulate the expression of Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. Furthermore, Wnt-3a and Wnt-3 stimulated neurite outgrowth in SCNP-derived neurons through ß-catenin and TCF4-dependent transcription. GSK-3ß inhibitors mimicked Wnt signaling and promoted neurite outgrowth in established cultures. We conclude that Wnt-3a and Wnt-3 signal through the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway to regulate different aspects of SCNP development. These findings may be of therapeutic interest for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and nerve injury.