Tribolium Wnts: evidence for a larger repertoire in insects with overlapping expression patterns that suggest multiple redundant functions in embryogenesis
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wingless (wg)/Wnt family genes encode secreted glycoproteins that function as signalling molecules in the development of vertebrates as well as invertebrates. In a survey of Wnt family genes in the newly sequenced Tribolium genome, we found a total of nine Wnt genes. In addition to wg or Wnt1, Tribolium contains orthologs of the vertebrate Wnt5–7 and Wnt9–11 genes. As in Drosophila, Wnt1, Wnt6 and Wnt10 are clustered in the genome. Comparative genomics indicates that Wnt9 is also a conserved member of this cluster in several insects for which genome sequence is available. One of the Tribolium Wnt genes appears to be a member of the WntA family, members of which have been identified in Anopheles and other invertebrates but not in Drosophila or vertebrates. Careful phylogenetic examination suggests an Apis Wnt gene, previously identified as a Wnt4 homolog, is also a member of the WntA family. The ninth Tribolium Wnt gene is related to the diverged Drosophila WntD gene, both of which phylogenetically group with Wnt8 genes. Some of the Tribolium Wnt genes display multiple overlapping expression patterns, suggesting that they may be functionally redundant in segmentation, brain, appendage and hindgut development. In contrast, the unique expression patterns of Wnt5, Wnt7 and Wnt11 in developing appendages likely indicate novel functions.
KeywordsTribolium Wnt gene family Evolution Genome Insect
The work of R. Bolognesi, L. Farzana and S. Brown is supported by NIH grant HD29594. A. Beermann and R. Schröder thank R. Reuter for continuous support, T. Mader for technical assistance and the German Research Council (DFG) for funding (SCHR 4435/3-1/3/2).
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