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Open Access Research article

The WTX/AMER1 gene family: evolution, signature and function

Agnès Boutet12, Glenda Comai12 and Andreas Schedl12*

Author Affiliations

1 INSERM, U636, F-06108 Nice, France

2 Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis, Laboratoire de génétique du développement Normal et Pathologique, F-06108 Nice, France

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:280  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-280

Published: 15 September 2010



WTX is a novel gene mutated in a proportion of Wilms' tumors and in patients suffering from sclerosing bone dysplasia. On the molecular level WTX has been shown to act as an antagonist of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling in fish and mammals thus linking it to an essential pathway involved in normal development and cancer formation. Interestingly, WTX seems to also localize to an intranuclear component called paraspeckles. In spite of the growing interest of molecular biologists in WTX, little is known about its paralogs and its phylogenetic history.


Using the amino-acid sequence of WTX/AMER1 as a tool for the assignment of orthology and paralogy, we here identify two novel proteins, AMER2 and AMER3, as "WTX" related. This Amer gene family is present in all currently available vertebrate genome sequences, but not invertebrate genomes and is characterized by six conserved blocks of sequences. The phylogenetic analysis suggests that the protoAmer gene originated early in the vertebrate lineage and was then duplicated due to whole genome duplications (WGD) giving rise to the three different Amer genes.


Our study represents the first phylogenetic analysis of Amer genes and reveals a new vertebrate specific gene family that is likely to have played an important role in the evolution of this subphylum. Divergent and conserved molecular functions of Wtx/Amer1, Amer2 and Amer3 are discussed.