Two oppositely localised frizzled RNAs as axis determinants in a cnidarian embryo

PLoS Biol. 2007 Apr;5(4):e70. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050070.


In phylogenetically diverse animals, including the basally diverging cnidarians, "determinants" localised within the egg are responsible for directing development of the embryonic body plan. Many such determinants are known to regulate the Wnt signalling pathway, leading to regionalised stabilisation of the transcriptional coregulator beta-catenin; however, the only strong molecular candidate for a Wnt-activating determinant identified to date is the ligand Wnt11 in Xenopus. We have identified embryonic "oral-aboral" axis determinants in the cnidarian Clytia hemisphaerica in the form of RNAs encoding two Frizzled family Wnt receptors, localised at opposite poles of the egg. Morpholino-mediated inhibition of translation showed that CheFz1, localised at the animal pole, activates the canonical Wnt pathway, promotes oral fates including gastrulation, and may also mediate global polarity in the ectoderm. CheFz3, whose RNA is localised at the egg vegetal cortex, was found to oppose CheFz1 function and to define an aboral territory. Active downregulation mechanisms maintained the reciprocal localisation domains of the two RNAs during early development. Importantly, ectopic expression of either CheFz1 or CheFz3 was able to redirect axis development. These findings identify Frizzled RNAs as axis determinants in Clytia, and have implications for the evolution of embryonic patterning mechanisms, notably that diverse Wnt pathway regulators have been adopted to initiate asymmetric Wnt pathway activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Body Patterning*
  • Cnidaria / embryology*
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Frizzled Receptors / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA / genetics*


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Frizzled Receptors
  • RNA

Associated data

  • GENBANK/DQ869570
  • GENBANK/DQ869571
  • GENBANK/DQ869572
  • GENBANK/DQ872898