Stanganello, E., Hagemann, A.I., Mattes, B., Sinner, C., Meyen, D., Weber, S., Schug, A., Raz, E., Scholpp, S. (2015) Filopodia-based Wnt transport during vertebrate tissue patterning. Nature communications. 6:5846.
Paracrine Wnt/β-catenin signalling is important during developmental processes, tissue regeneration and stem cell regulation. Wnt proteins are morphogens, which form concentration gradients across responsive tissues. Little is known about the transport mechanism for these lipid-modified signalling proteins in vertebrates. Here we show that Wnt8a is transported on actin-based filopodia to contact responding cells and activate signalling during neural plate formation in zebrafish. Cdc42/N-Wasp regulates the formation of these Wnt-positive filopodia. Enhanced formation of filopodia increases the effective signalling range of Wnt by facilitating spreading. Consistently, reduction in filopodia leads to a restricted distribution of the ligand and a limited signalling range. Using a simulation, we provide evidence that such a short-range transport system for Wnt has a long-range signalling function. Indeed, we show that a filopodia-based transport system for Wnt8a controls anteroposterior patterning of the neural plate during vertebrate gastrulation.