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Genome Biol. 2002;3(1):REVIEWS3001. Epub 2001 Dec 28.

The Wnts.

Author information

  • Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. mille380@mail.med.umn.edu



The Wnt genes encode a large family of secreted protein growth factors that have been identified in animals from hydra to humans. In humans, 19 WNT proteins have been identified that share 27% to 83% amino-acid sequence identity and a conserved pattern of 23 or 24 cysteine residues. Wnt genes are highly conserved between vertebrate species sharing overall sequence identity and gene structure, and are slightly less conserved between vertebrates and invertebrates. During development, Wnts have diverse roles in governing cell fate, proliferation, migration, polarity, and death. In adults, Wnts function in homeostasis, and inappropriate activation of the Wnt pathway is implicated in a variety of cancers.

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