The evolution of the Wnt pathway

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012 Jul 1;4(7):a007922. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a007922.


Wnt genes are important regulators of embryogenesis and cell differentiation in vertebrates and insects. New data revealed by comparative genomics have now shown that members of the Wnt signaling pathway can be found in all clades of metazoans, but not in fungi, plants, or unicellular eukaryotes. This article focuses on new data from recent genomic analyses of several basal metazoan organisms, providing evidence that the Wnt pathway was a primordial signaling pathway during evolution. The formation of a Wnt signaling center at the site of gastrulation was instrumental for the formation of a primary, anterior-posterior body axis, which can be traced throughout animal evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism


  • Wnt Proteins