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Keywords:

  • Dishevelled (Dvl);
  • Wnt;
  • chordate evolution;
  • sclerotome;
  • myotome

Abstract

Dishevelled (Dvl) proteins are key transducers of Wnt signaling encoded by members of a multi-gene family in vertebrates. We report here the divergent, tissue-specific expression patterns for all three Dvl genes in Xenopus embryos, which contrast dramatically with their expression patterns in mice. Moreover, we find that the expression patterns of Dvl genes in the chick diverge significantly from those of Xenopus. In addition, in hemichordates, an outgroup to chordates, we find that the one Dvl gene is dynamically expressed in a tissue-specific manner. Using knockdowns, we find that Dvl1 and Dvl2 are required for early neural crest specification and for somite segmentation in Xenopus. Most strikingly, we report a novel role for Dvl3 in the maintenance of gene expression in muscle and in the development of the Xenopus sclerotome. These data demonstrate that the expression patterns and developmental functions of specific Dvl genes have diverged significantly during chordate evolution. Developmental Dynamics 238:2044–2057, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.