Cnidarians and ancestral genetic complexity in the animal kingdom

Trends Genet. 2005 Oct;21(10):536-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2005.08.002.


Eleven of the twelve recognized wingless (Wnt) subfamilies are represented in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, indicating that this developmentally important gene family was already fully diversified in the common ancestor of 'higher' animals. In deuterostomes, although duplications have occurred, no novel subfamilies of Wnts have evolved. By contrast, the protostomes Drosophila and Caenorhabditis have lost half of the ancestral Wnts. This pattern -- loss of genes from an ancestrally complex state -- might be more important in animal evolution than previously recognized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cnidaria / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Phylogeny
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics*


  • Wnt Proteins