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Wnt signaling is essential for embryonic development, influencing processes such as axis formation, cell proliferation and differentiation, cell fate decisions, and axon guidance. It also plays a role in maintaining tissue homeostasis in adult organisms. The loss of normal cell polarity and adhesion caused by Wnt signaling activation is a fundamental step for tumor progression and metastasis. Activating the canonical Wnt pathway is a driving force in many human cancers, especially colorectal, hepatocellular, and mammary carcinomas. Wnt causes the stabilization and nuclear transport of newly synthesized transcriptional regulator β-catenin. The generally accepted view is that the canonical effects of Wnt growth factors are caused by the transcription of β-catenin target genes. Here, we review recent findings that indicate Wnt is a regulator of many other cellular physiological activities, such as macropinocytosis, endosome trafficking, protein stability, focal adhesions, and lysosomal activity. Some of these regulatory responses occur within minutes and do not require new protein synthesis, indicating that there is much more to Wnt beyond the well-established transcriptional role of β-catenin. The main conclusion that emerges from these studies is that in basal cell conditions, the activity of the key protein kinase GSK3, which is inhibited by Wnt pathway activation, normally represses the actin machinery that orchestrates macropinocytosis with implications in cancer. These contributions expand our understanding of the multifaceted roles of Wnt signaling in cellular processes, development, and cancer, providing insights into potential therapeutic targets and strategies.

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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © 2024 The Authors. IUBMB Life published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.