Phylogenetic analysis of the Wnt gene family. Insights from lophotrochozoan members

Curr Biol. 2002 Aug 20;12(16):1395. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(02)01068-0.


The Wnt gene family encodes secreted signaling molecules that control cell fate specification, proliferation, polarity, and movements during animal development. We investigate here the evolutionary history of this large multigenic family. Wnt genes have been almost exclusively isolated from two of the three main subdivisions of bilaterian animals, the deuterostomes (which include chordates and echinoderms) and the ecdysozoans (e.g., arthropods and nematodes). However, orthology relationships between deuterostome and ecdysozoan Wnt genes, and, more generally, the phylogeny of the Wnt family, are not yet clear. We report here the isolation of several Wnt genes from two species, the annelid Platynereis dumerilii and the mollusc Patella vulgata, which both belong to the third large bilaterian clade, the lophotrochozoans (which constitute, together with ecdysozoans, the protostomes). Multiple phylogenetic analyses of these sequences with a large set of other Wnt gene sequences, in particular, the complete set of Wnt genes of human, nematode, and fly, allow us to subdivide the Wnt family into 12 subfamilies. At least nine of them were already present in the last common ancestor of all bilaterian animals, and this further highlights the genetic complexity of this ancestor. The orthology relationships we present here open new perspectives for future developmental comparisons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Annelida / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mollusca / genetics*
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / classification
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AJ491796
  • GENBANK/AJ491797
  • GENBANK/AJ491798
  • GENBANK/AJ491799
  • GENBANK/AJ491800
  • GENBANK/AJ491801
  • GENBANK/AJ491802
  • GENBANK/AJ491803
  • GENBANK/AJ491804
  • GENBANK/AJ491805