Wnt-5a ligand modulates mitochondrial fission-fusion in rat hippocampal neurons

Juan A. Godoy, Macarena S. Arrázola, Daniela Ordenes, Carmen Silva-Alvarez, Nady Braidy, Nibaldo C. Inestrosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


The Wnt signaling pathway plays an important role in developmental processes, including embryonic patterning, cell specification, and cell polarity. Wnt components participate in the development of the central nervous system, and growing evidence indicates that this pathway also regulates the function of the adult nervous system. In this study, we report that Wnt-5a, a noncanonical Wnt ligand, is a potent activator of mitochondrial dynamics and induces acute fission and fusion events in the mitochondria of rat hippocampal neurons. The effect of Wnt-5a was inhibited in the presence of sFRP, a Wnt scavenger. Similarly, the canonical Wnt-3a ligand had no effect on mitochondrial fission-fusion events, suggesting that this effect is specific for Wnt-5a alone.We also show that the Wnt-5a effects on mitochondrial dynamics occur with an increase in both intracellular and mitochondrial calcium (Ca2+), which was correlated with an increased phosphorylation of Drp1(Ser-616) and a decrease of Ser- 637 phosphorylation, both indicators of mitochondrial dynamics. Electron microscope analysis of hippocampal tissues in the CA1 region showed an increase in the number of mitochondria present in the postsynaptic region, and this finding correlated with a change in mitochondrial morphology. We conclude that Wnt-5a/ Ca2+ signaling regulates the mitochondrial fission-fusion process in hippocampal neurons, a feature that might help to further understand the role of Wnt-related pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, and represents a potentially important link between impaired metabolic function and degenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36179-36193
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number52
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


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