Expression of wnt and frizzled genes during early sea star development.
The Wnt signaling pathway is highly conserved across metazoa and has pleiotropic functions in the development of many animals. Binding of a secreted Wnt ligand to its Frizzled (Fz) receptor activates Dishevelled, which then drives one of three major signaling cascades, canonical (β-catenin), calcium, or planar cell polarity signaling. These pathways have distinct developmental effects and function in different processes in different organisms. Here we report the expression of six wnt and three fz genes during embryogenesis of the sea star, Patiria miniata, as a first step in uncovering the roles of Wnt signaling in the development of this organism. wnt3, wnt4, wnt8, and wnt16 are expressed in nested domains in the endoderm and lateral ectoderm from blastula through late gastrula stages; wnt2 and wnt5 are expressed in the mesoderm and anterior endoderm. Expression of different fz paralogs is detected in the mesoderm; posterior endoderm and ectoderm; and anterior ectoderm. Taken together, this suggests that Wnt signaling can occur throughout most of the embryo and may therefore play multiple roles during sea star development.