Non-canonical WNT signalling in cardiovascular disease: mechanisms and therapeutic implications.
Akoumianakis I., Polkinghorne M., Antoniades C.
WNT signalling comprises a diverse spectrum of receptor-mediated pathways activated by a large family of WNT ligands and influencing fundamental biological processes. WNT signalling includes the β-catenin canonical pathway and the non-canonical pathways, namely the planar cell polarity and the calcium-dependent pathways. Advances over the past decade have linked non-canonical WNT signalling with key mechanisms of atherosclerosis, including oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, macrophage activation and vascular smooth muscle cell phenotype regulation. In addition, non-canonical WNT signalling is involved in crucial aspects of myocardial biology, from fibrosis to hypertrophy and oxidative stress. Importantly, non-canonical WNT signalling activation has complex effects in adipose tissue in the context of obesity, thereby potentially linking metabolic and vascular diseases. Tissue-specific targeting of non-canonical WNT signalling might be associated with substantial risks of off-target tumorigenesis, challenging its therapeutic potential. However, novel technologies, such as monoclonal antibodies, recombinant decoy receptors, tissue-specific gene silencing with small interfering RNAs and gene editing with CRISPR-Cas9, might enable more efficient therapeutic targeting of WNT signalling in the cardiovascular system. In this Review, we summarize the components of non-canonical WNT signalling, their links with the main mechanisms of atherosclerosis, heart failure and arrhythmias, and the rationale for targeting individual components of non-canonical WNT signalling for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.