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Evodevo. 2010 Oct 4;1(1):10. doi: 10.1186/2041-9139-1-10.

Genomic insights into Wnt signaling in an early diverging metazoan, the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi.

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1
Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, USA. mqmartin@hawaii.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Intercellular signaling pathways are a fundamental component of the integrating cellular behavior required for the evolution of multicellularity. The genomes of three of the four early branching animal phyla (Cnidaria, Placozoa and Porifera) have been surveyed for key components, but not the fourth (Ctenophora). Genomic data from ctenophores could be particularly relevant, as ctenophores have been proposed to be one of the earliest branching metazoan phyla.

RESULTS:

A preliminary assembly of the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi genome generated using next-generation sequencing technologies were searched for components of a developmentally important signaling pathway, the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Molecular phylogenetic analysis shows four distinct Wnt ligands (MlWnt6, MlWnt9, MlWntA and MlWntX), and most, but not all components of the receptor and intracellular signaling pathway were detected. In situ hybridization of the four Wnt ligands showed that they are expressed in discrete regions associated with the aboral pole, tentacle apparati and apical organ.

CONCLUSIONS:

Ctenophores show a minimal (but not obviously simple) complement of Wnt signaling components. Furthermore, it is difficult to compare the Mnemiopsis Wnt expression patterns with those of other metazoans. mRNA expression of Wnt pathway components appears later in development than expected, and zygotic gene expression does not appear to play a role in early axis specification. Notably absent in the Mnemiopsis genome are most major secreted antagonists, which suggests that complex regulation of this secreted signaling pathway probably evolved later in animal evolution.

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