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Journal of Physiology
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Genetically encoded pH-indicators reveal activity-dependent cytosolic acidification of Drosophila motor nerve termini in vivo
All biochemical processes, including those underlying synaptic function and plasticity, are pH sensitive. Cytosolic pH (pHcyto) shifts are known to accompany nerve activity in situ, but technological limitations have prevented characterization of such shifts in vivo. Genetically encoded pH-indicators (GEpHIs) allow for tissue-specific in vivo measurement of pH. We expressed three different GEpHIs in the cytosol of Drosophila larval motor neurons and observed substantial presynaptic acidification in nerve termini during nerve stimulation in situ. SuperEcliptic pHluorin was the most useful GEpHI for studying pHcyto shifts in this model system. We determined the resting pH of the nerve terminal cytosol to be 7.30±0.02, and observed a decrease of 0.16±0.01 pH units when the axon was stimulated at 40 Hz for 4 s. Realkalinization occurred upon cessation of stimulation with a time course of 20.54 ± 1.05 s (). The chemical pH-indicator 2,7-bis-(2-carboxyethyl)-5-(and-6)-carboxyfluorescein corroborated these changes in pHcyto. Bicarbonate-derived buffering did not contribute to buffering of acid loads from short (4 s) trains of action potentials but did buffer slow (~60 s) acid loads. The magnitude of cytosolic acid transients correlated with cytosolic Ca2+ increase upon stimulation, and partial inhibition of the plasma membrane Ca2+-ATPase, a Ca2+/H+ exchanger, attenuated pHcyto shifts. Repeated stimulus trains mimicking motor patterns generated greater cytosolic acidification (~0.30 pH units). Imaging through the cuticle of intact larvae revealed spontaneous pHcyto shifts in presynaptic termini in vivo, similar to those seen in situ during fictive locomotion, indicating that presynaptic pHcyto shifts cannot be dismissed as artifacts of ex vivo preparations.
Gating of long-term depression by Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II through enhanced cGMP signalling in cerebellar Purkinje cells
Long-term depression (LTD) at parallel fibre synapses on a cerebellar Purkinje cell has been regarded as a cellular basis for motor learning. Although Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) has been implicated in the LTD induction as an important Ca2+-sensing molecule, the underlying signalling mechanism remains unclear. Here, we attempted to explore the potential signalling pathway underlying the CaMKII involvement in LTD using a systems biology approach, combined with validation by electrophysiological and FRET imaging experiments on a rat cultured Purkinje cell. Model simulation predicted the following cascade as a candidate mechanism for the CaMKII contribution to LTD: CaMKII negatively regulates phosphodiesterase 1 (PDE1), subsequently facilitates the cGMP/protein kinase G (PKG) signalling pathway and down-regulates protein phosphatase 2A (PP-2A), thus supporting the LTD-inducing positive feedback loop consisting of mutual activation of protein kinase C (PKC) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). This model suggestion was corroborated by whole-cell patch clamp recording experiments. In addition, FRET measurement of intracellular cGMP concentration revealed that CaMKII activation causes sustained increase of cGMP, supporting the signalling mechanism of LTD induction by CaMKII. Furthermore, we found that activation of the cGMP/PKG pathway by nitric oxide (NO) can support LTD induction without activation of CaMKII. Thus, this study clarified interaction between NO and Ca2+/CaMKII, two important factors required for LTD.
Direct inhibition of arcuate proopiomelanocortin neurons: a potential mechanism for the orexigenic actions of dynorphin
Dynorphin, an endogenous ligand of kappa () opioid receptors, has multiple roles in the brain, and plays a positive role in energy balance and food intake. However, the mechanism for this is unclear. With immunocytochemistry, we find that axonal dynorphin immunoreactivity in the arcuate nucleus is strong, and that a large number of dynorphin-immunoreactive boutons terminate on or near anorexigenic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) cells. Here we provide evidence from whole-cell patch-clamp recording that dynorphin-A (Dyn-A) directly and dose-dependently inhibits arcuate nucleus POMC neurons. Dyn-A inhibition was eliminated by the opioid receptor antagonist nor-BNI, but not by the receptor antagonist CTAP. The inhibitory effect was mimicked by the 2 receptor agonist GR89696, but not by the 1 receptor agonist U69593. No presynaptic effect of 2 agonists was found. These results suggest that Dyn-A inhibits POMC neurons through activation of the 2 opioid receptor. In whole-cell voltage clamp, Dyn-A opened G-protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK)-like channels on POMC neurons. Dynorphin attenuated glutamate and GABA neurotransmission to POMC neurons. In contrast to the strong inhibition of POMC neurons by Dyn-A, we found a weaker direct inhibitory effect of Dyn-A on arcuate nucleus neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons mediated by both 1 and 2 receptors. Taken together, these results indicate a direct inhibitory effect of Dyn-A on POMC neurons through activation of the 2 opioid receptor and GIRK channels. A number of orexigenic hypothalamic neurons release dynorphin along with other neuropeptides. The inhibition of anorexigenic POMC neurons may be one mechanism underlying the orexigenic actions of dynorphin.
Hyperpolarisation-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channels regulate the spontaneous firing rate of olfactory receptor neurons and affect glomerular formation in mice
Olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs), which undergo lifelong neurogenesis, have been studied extensively to understand how neurons form precise topographical networks. Neural projections from ORNs are principally guided by the genetic code, which directs projections from ORNs that express a specific odorant receptor to the corresponding glomerulus in the olfactory bulb. In addition, ORNs utilise spontaneous firing activity to establish and maintain the neural map. However, neither the process of generating this spontaneous activity nor its role as a guidance cue in the olfactory bulb is clearly understood. Utilising extracellular unit-recordings in mouse olfactory epithelium slices, we demonstrated that the hyperpolarisation-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels in the somas of ORNs depolarise their membranes and boost their spontaneous firing rates by sensing basal cAMP levels; the odorant-sensitive cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels in cilia do not. The basal cAMP levels were maintained via the standing activation of -adrenergic receptors. Using a Tet-off system to over-express HCN4 channels resulted in the enhancement of spontaneous ORN activity and dramatically reduced both the size and number of glomeruli in the olfactory bulb. This phenotype was rescued by the administration of doxycycline. These findings suggest that cAMP plays different roles in cilia and soma and that basal cAMP levels in the soma are directly converted via HCN channels into a spontaneous firing frequency that acts as an intrinsic guidance cue for the formation of olfactory networks.
A defined heteromeric KV1 channel stabilizes the intrinsic pacemaking and regulates the output of deep cerebellar nuclear neurons to thalamic targets
The output of the cerebellum to the motor axis of the central nervous system is orchestrated mainly by synaptic inputs and intrinsic pacemaker activity of deep cerebellar nuclear (DCN) projection neurons. Herein, we demonstrate that the soma of these cells is enriched with KV1 channels produced by mandatory multi-merization of KV1.1, 1.2 and KV 2 subunits. Being constitutively active, the K+ current (IKV1) mediated by these channels stabilizes the rate and regulates the temporal precision of self-sustained firing of these neurons. Placed strategically, IKV1 provides a powerful counter-balance to prolonged depolarizing inputs, attenuates the rebound excitation, and dampens the membrane potential bi-stability. Somatic location with low activation threshold render IKV1 instrumental in voltage-dependent de-coupling of the axon initial segment from the cell body of projection neurons, impeding invasion of back-propagating action potentials into the somato-dendritic compartment. The latter is also demonstrated to secure the dominance of clock-like somatic pacemaking in driving the regenerative firing activity of these neurons, to encode time variant inputs with high fidelity. Through the use of multi-compartmental modelling and retro-axonal labelling, the physiological significance of the described functions for processing and communication of information from the lateral DCN to thalamic relay nuclei is established.
Serotonergic control of Purkinje cell maturation and climbing fibre elimination by 5-HT3 receptors in the juvenile mouse cerebellum
Functional serotonin 3 (5-HT3) receptors are transiently expressed by cerebellar granule cells during early postnatal development, where they modulate short-term synaptic plasticity at the parallel fibre–Purkinje cell synapse. Here, we show that serotonin controls maturation of Purkinje cells in the mouse cerebellum. The 5-HT3 receptors regulate morphological maturation of Purkinje cells during early postnatal development, and this effect is mediated by the glycoprotein reelin. Using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings we also investigated physiological development of Purkinje cells in 5-HT3A receptor knockout mice during early postnatal development, and found abnormal physiological maturation, characterized by a more depolarized resting membrane potential, an increased input resistance and the ability to fire action potentials upon injection of a depolarizing current at an earlier age. Furthermore, short-term synaptic plasticity was impaired at both the parallel fibre–Purkinje cell and the climbing fibre–Purkinje cell synapses, and both the amplitude and the frequency of spontaneous miniature events recorded from Purkinje cells were increased. The expedited morphological and physiological maturation affects the whole cerebellar cortical network, as indicated by delayed climbing fibre elimination in 5-HT3A receptor knockout mice. There was no difference between wild-type and 5-HT3A receptor knockout mice in any of the morphological or physiological properties described above at later ages, indicating a specific time window during which serotonin regulates postnatal development of the cerebellum via 5-HT3 receptors expressed by granule cells.
Input-specific learning rules at excitatory synapses onto hippocampal parvalbumin-expressing interneurons
Hippocampal parvalbumin-expressing interneurons (PV INs) provide fast and reliable GABAergic signalling to principal cells and orchestrate hippocampal ensemble activities. Precise coordination of principal cell activity by PV INs relies in part on the efficacy of excitatory afferents that recruit them in the hippocampal network. Feed-forward (FF) inputs in particular from Schaffer collaterals influence spike timing precision in CA1 principal cells whereas local feedback (FB) inputs may contribute to pacemaker activities. Although PV INs have been shown to undergo activity-dependent long term plasticity, how both inputs are modulated during principal cell firing is unknown. Here we show that FF and FB synapses onto PV INs are endowed with distinct postsynaptic glutamate receptors which set opposing long-term plasticity rules. Inward-rectifying AMPA receptors (AMPARs) expressed at both FF and FB inputs mediate a form of anti-Hebbian long term potentiation (LTP), relying on coincident membrane hyperpolarization and synaptic activation. In contrast, FF inputs are largely devoid of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) which are more abundant at FB afferents and confer on them an additional form of LTP with Hebbian properties. Both forms of LTP are expressed with no apparent change in presynaptic function. The specific endowment of FF and FB inputs with distinct coincidence detectors allow them to be differentially tuned upon high frequency afferent activity. Thus, high frequency (>20 Hz) stimulation specifically potentiates FB, but not FF afferents. We propose that these differential, input-specific learning rules may allow PV INs to adapt to changes in hippocampal activity while preserving their precisely timed, clockwork operation.
Gastrin-releasing peptide acts via postsynaptic BB2 receptors to modulate inward rectifier K+ and TRPV1-like conductances in rat paraventricular thalamic neurons
Gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) is a bombesin-like peptide with a widespread distribution in mammalian CNS, where it has a role in food intake, circadian rhythm generation, fear memory, itch sensation and sexual behaviour. While it has been established that GRP predominantly excites neurons, details of the membrane mechanism involved in this action remain largely undefined. We used perforated patch clamp recording in acute brain slice preparations to investigate GRP-affected receptors and ionic conductances in neurons of the rat paraventricular thalamic nucleus (PVT). PVT is a component of the midline and intralaminar thalamus that participates in arousal, motivational drives and stress responses, and exhibits a prominence of GRP-like immunoreactive fibres. Exposure of PVT neurons to low nanomolar concentrations of GRP induced sustained TTX-resistant membrane depolarizations that could trigger rhythmic burst discharges or tonic firing. Membrane current analyses in voltage clamp revealed an underlying postsynaptic bombesin type 2 receptor-mediated inward current that resulted from the simultaneous suppression of a Ba2+-sensitive inward rectifier K+ conductance and activation of a non-selective cation conductance with biophysical and pharmacological properties reminiscent of transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) 1. A role for a TRPV1-like conductance was further implied by a significant suppressant influence of a TRPV1 antagonist on GRP-induced membrane depolarization and rhythmic burst or tonic firing. The results provide a detailed picture of the receptor and ionic conductances that are involved in GRP's excitatory action in midline thalamus.
GABAergic granule cells (GCs) regulate, via mitral cells, the final output from the olfactory bulb to piriform cortex and are central for the speed and accuracy of odour discrimination. However, little is known about the local circuits in which GCs are embedded and how GCs respond during functional network activity. We recorded inhibitory and excitatory currents evoked during a single sniff-like odour presentation in GCs in vivo. We found that synaptic excitation was extensively activated across cells, whereas phasic inhibition was rare. Furthermore, our analysis indicates that GCs are innervated by a persistent firing of deep short axon cells that mediated the inhibitory evoked responses. Blockade of GABAergic synaptic input onto GCs revealed a tonic inhibitory current mediated by furosemide-sensitive GABAA receptors. The average current associated with this tonic GABAergic conductance was 3-fold larger than that of phasic inhibitory postsynaptic currents. We show that the pharmacological blockage of tonic inhibition markedly increased the occurrence of supra-threshold responses during an odour-stimulated sniff. Our findings suggest that GCs mediate recurrent or lateral inhibition, depending on the ambient level of extracellular GABA.
Increased activity of pre-motor network does not change the excitability of motoneurons during protracted scratch initiation
Intrinsic response properties of neurons change during network activity. These changes may reinforce the initiation of particular forms of network activity. If so, the involvement of neurons in particular behaviours in multifunctional networks could be determined by up- or down-regulation of their intrinsic excitability. Here we employed an experimental paradigm of protracted scratch initiation in the integrated carapace–spinal cord preparation of adult turtles (Chrysemys scripta elegans). The protracted initiation of scratch network activity allows us to investigate the excitability of motoneurons and pre-motor network activity in the time interval from the start of sensory stimulation until the onset of scratch activity. Our results suggest that increased activity in the pre-motor network facilitates the onset of scratch episodes but does not change the excitability of motoneurons at the onset of scratching.
We evaluated cerebral perfusion, oxygenation and metabolism in 11 young (22 ± 1 years) and nine older (66 ± 2 years) individuals at rest and during cycling exercise at low (25% Wmax), moderate (50% Wmax), high (75% Wmax) and exhaustive (100% Wmax) workloads. Mean middle cerebral artery blood velocity (MCA Vmean), mean arterial pressure (MAP), cardiac output (CO) and partial pressure of arterial carbon dioxide ( ) were measured. Blood samples were obtained from the right internal jugular vein and brachial artery to determine concentration differences for oxygen (O2), glucose and lactate across the brain. The molar ratio between cerebral uptake of O2 versus carbohydrate (O2–carbohydrate index; O2/[glucose + 1/2 lactate]; OCI), the cerebral metabolic rate of O2 (CMRO2) and changes in mitochondrial O2 tension ( ) were calculated. 100% Wmax was ~33% lower in the older group. Exercise increased MAP and CO in both groups (P < 0.05 vs. rest), but at each intensity MAP was higher and CO lower in the older group (P < 0.05). MCA Vmean, and cerebral vascular conductance index (MCA Vmean/MAP) were lower in the older group at each exercise intensity (P < 0.05). In contrast, young and older individuals exhibited similar increases in CMRO2 (by ~30 mol (100 g–1) min–1), and decreases in OCI (by ~1.5) and (by ~10 mmHg) during exercise at 75% Wmax. Thus, despite the older group having reduced cerebral perfusion and maximal exercise capacity, cerebral oxygenation and uptake of lactate and glucose are similar during exercise in young and older individuals.
Involvement of the dorsomedial hypothalamus and the nucleus tractus solitarii in chronic cardiovascular changes associated with anxiety in rats
Anxiety disorders in humans reduce both the heart rate variability (HRV) and the sensitivity of the cardiac baroreflex (BRS). Both may contribute to sudden death. To elucidate the mechanisms underlying these alterations, male rats were subjected to social defeat sessions on four consecutive days. Five days later, the rats were found to be in an anxiety-like state. At this time point, we analysed HRV and BRS in the defeated rats, with or without treatment with the anxiolytic chlordiazepoxide (CDZ). HRV was reduced after social defeat, due to changes in the autonomic balance favouring the sympathetic over the parasympathetic component. Spontaneous and pharmacological baroreflex gains were also reduced. CDZ abolished anxiety-like symptoms as well as HRV and BRS alterations. Inhibition of the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) with muscimol reversed all cardiovascular alterations, whereas blockade of the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) 5-HT3 receptor by the local or systemic administration of granisetron restored only baroreflex gains and the parasympathetic component of HRV. In conclusion, repeated social defeat in the rat lead to an anxiety-like state that was associated with lasting reduction in HRV and baroreflex gains. The DMH and the NTS were responsible for these chronic cardiovascular alterations. These regions may therefore constitute new therapeutic targets for reducing cardiac dysfunction and fibrillation in anxiety disorders.
Intracortical circuits, sensorimotor integration and plasticity in human motor cortical projections to muscles of the lower face
Previous studies of the cortical control of human facial muscles documented the distribution of corticobulbar projections and the presence of intracortical inhibitory and facilitatory mechanisms. Yet surprisingly, given the importance and precision in control of facial expression, there have been no studies of the afferent modulation of corticobulbar excitability or of the plasticity of synaptic connections in the facial primary motor cortex (face M1). In 25 healthy volunteers, we used standard single- and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) methods to probe motor-evoked potentials (MEPs), short-intracortical inhibition, intracortical facilitation, short-afferent and long-afferent inhibition and paired associative stimulation in relaxed and active depressor anguli oris muscles. Single-pulse TMS evoked bilateral MEPs at rest and during activity that were larger in contralateral muscles, confirming that corticobulbar projection to lower facial muscles is bilateral and asymmetric, with contralateral predominance. Both short-intracortical inhibition and intracortical facilitation were present bilaterally in resting and active conditions. Electrical stimulation of the facial nerve paired with a TMS pulse 5–200 ms later showed no short-afferent inhibition, but long-afferent inhibition was present. Paired associative stimulation tested with an electrical stimulation–TMS interval of 20 ms significantly facilitated MEPs for up to 30 min. The long-term potentiation, evoked for the first time in face M1, demonstrates that excitability of the facial motor cortex is prone to plastic changes after paired associative stimulation. Evaluation of intracortical circuits in both relaxed and active lower facial muscles as well as of plasticity in the facial motor cortex may provide further physiological insight into pathologies affecting the facial motor system.
Prolonged asymmetric vestibular stimulation induces opposite, long-term effects on self-motion perception and ocular responses
Self-motion perception and the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) were investigated in healthy subjects during asymmetric whole body yaw plane oscillations while standing on a platform in the dark. Platform oscillation consisted of two half-sinusoidal cycles of the same amplitude (40°) but different duration, featuring a fast (FHC) and a slow half-cycle (SHC). Rotation consisted of four or 20 consecutive cycles to probe adaptation further with the longer duration protocol. Self-motion perception was estimated by subjects tracking with a pointer the remembered position of an earth-fixed visual target. VOR was measured by electro-oculography. The asymmetric stimulation pattern consistently induced a progressive increase of asymmetry in motion perception, whereby the gain of the tracking response gradually increased during FHCs and decreased during SHCs. The effect was observed already during the first few cycles and further increased during 20 cycles, leading to a totally distorted location of the initial straight-ahead. In contrast, after some initial interindividual variability, the gain of the slow phase VOR became symmetric, decreasing for FHCs and increasing for SHCs. These oppositely directed adaptive effects in motion perception and VOR persisted for nearly an hour. Control conditions using prolonged but symmetrical stimuli produced no adaptive effects on either motion perception or VOR. These findings show that prolonged asymmetric activation of the vestibular system leads to opposite patterns of adaptation of self-motion perception and VOR. The results provide strong evidence that semicircular canal inputs are processed centrally by independent mechanisms for perception of body motion and eye movement control. These divergent adaptation mechanisms enhance awareness of movement toward the faster body rotation, while improving the eye stabilizing properties of the VOR.
Energy intake is strongly influenced by vagal afferent signals from the stomach, and is also modulated by leptin. Leptin may be secreted from gastric epithelial cells, so we aimed to determine the direct effect of leptin on gastric vagal afferents under different feeding conditions. Female C57BL/6 mice were fed standard laboratory diet, high-fat diet or were food restricted. The expression of leptin receptor (Lep-R) and its signal transduction molecules in vagal afferents was determined by retrograde tracing and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, and the relationship between leptin-immunopositive cells and gastric vagal afferent endings determined by anterograde tracing and leptin immunohistochemistry. An in vitro preparation was used to determine the functional effects of leptin on gastric vagal afferents and the second messenger pathways involved. Leptin potentiated vagal mucosal afferent responses to tactile stimuli, and epithelial cells expressing leptin were found close to vagal mucosal endings. After fasting or diet-induced obesity, potentiation of mucosal afferents by leptin was lost and Lep-R expression reduced in the cell bodies of gastric mucosal afferents. These effects in diet-induced obese mice were accompanied by a reduction in anatomical vagal innervation of the gastric mucosa. In striking contrast, after fasting or diet-induced obesity, leptin actually inhibited responses to distension in tension receptors. The inhibitory effect on gastric tension receptors was mediated through phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-dependent activation of large-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels. The excitatory effect of leptin on gastric mucosal vagal afferents was mediated by phospholipase C-dependent activation of canonical transient receptor potential channels. These data suggest the effect of leptin on gastric vagal afferent excitability is dynamic and related to the feeding state. Paradoxically, in obesity, leptin may reduce responses to gastric distension following food intake.
Subpopulation-specific patterns of intrinsic connectivity in mouse superficial dorsal horn as revealed by laser scanning photostimulation
The primary goal of this study was to map the transverse distribution of local excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs to mouse lamina I spinal dorsal horn neurons, using laser scanning photostimulation. A sample of lamina II neurons was also studied for comparison. Lamina I neurons received excitatory synaptic input from both laminae I–II and the outer part of III–IV, especially the II/III border region, while the inhibitory input zones were mostly confined within I–II. The excitatory synaptic input zones showed a pronounced medial asymmetry, which was correlated with a matching asymmetry in the dendritic fields of the neurons. Inhibitory input from laminae III–IV was found in a subpopulation of neurons occupying a highly restricted zone, essentially one cell layer thick, immediately below the lamina I/II border, with morphological and physiological properties that were distinct from other laminar populations in the superficial dorsal horn, and that suggest a critical role in interlaminar communication. This subpopulation also received excitatory input from laminae III–IV. Within this subpopulation, inhibitory III–IV input was correlated with the presence of long ventral dendrites. Correlations between the distribution of synaptic input zones and dendritic fields support the concept that interlaminar communication is mediated in part via contacts made onto ventrally extending dendrites of superficial laminae neurons. The results point to the presence of cell type specificity in dorsal horn circuitry, and show how the study of connectivity can itself help identify previously unrecognized neuronal populations.
Role of the Wnt-Frizzled system in cardiac pathophysiology: a rapidly developing, poorly understood area with enormous potential
The Wnt-Frizzled (Fzd) G-protein-coupled receptor system, involving 19 distinct Wnt ligands and 10 Fzd receptors, plays key roles in the development and functioning of many organ systems. There is increasing evidence that Wnt-Fzd signalling is important in regulating cardiac function. Wnt-Fzd signalling primarily involves a canonical pathway, with dishevelled-1-dependent nuclear translocation of -catenin that derepresses Wnt-sensitive gene transcription, but can also include non-canonical pathways via phospholipase-C/Ca2+ mobilization and dishevelled-protein activation of small GTPases. Wnt-Fzd effects vary with specific ligand/receptor interactions and associated downstream pathways. This paper reviews the biochemistry and physiology of the Wnt-Fzd complex, and presents current knowledge of Wnt signalling in cardiac remodelling processes such as hypertrophy and fibrosis, as well as disease states such as myocardial infarction (MI), heart failure and arrhythmias. Wnt signalling is activated during hypertrophy; inhibiting Wnt signalling by activating glycogen synthase kinase attenuates the hypertrophic response. Wnt signalling has complex and time-dependent actions post-MI, so that either beneficial or harmful effects might result from Wnt-directed interventions. Stem cell biology, a promising area for therapeutic intervention, is highly regulated by Wnt signalling. The Wnt system regulates fibroblast function, and is prominently altered in arrhythmogenic ventricular cardiomyopathy, a familial disease involving excess deposition of fibroadipose tissue. Wnt signalling controls connexin43 expression, thereby contributing to the regulation of cardiac electrical stability and arrhythmia generation. Although much has been learned about Wnt-Fzd signalling in hypertrophy and infarction, its role is poorly understood for a broad range of other heart disorders. Much more needs to be learned for its contributions to be fully appreciated, and to permit more effective exploitation of its enormous potential in therapeutic development.