The formation of functional synapses requires a proper dialogue between incoming axons and their future synaptic targets. As axons approach their target, they are instructed to slow down and remodel to form proper presynaptic terminals. Although significant progress has been made in the identification of the mechanisms that control axon guidance, little is known about the mechanisms that regulate the conversion of actively growing axon into a presynaptic terminal. We found that Wnt secreted proteins are retrograde signals that regulate the terminal arborization of axons and synaptic differentiation. Wnts released from postsynaptic neurons induce extensive remodelling on incoming axons. This remodelling is manifested by a decrease in axon extension with a concomitant increase in growth-cone size. This morphological change is correlated with changes in the dynamics and organization of microtubules. Studies of a vertebrate synapse and the Drosophila neuromuscular junction suggest that a conserved Wnt signalling pathway modulates presynaptic microtubules as axons remodel during synapse formation. In this paper I discuss the role of the Wnt–Dvl (Dishevelled protein)–GSK-3β (glycogen synthase kinase-3β) signalling pathway in axon remodelling during synapse formation in the central nervous system.

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