A large family of putative transmembrane receptors homologous to the product of the Drosophila tissue polarity gene frizzled.
In Drosophila melanogaster, the frizzled gene plays an essential role in the development of tissue polarity as assessed by the orientation of cuticular structures. Through a combination of random cDNA sequencing, degenerate polymerase chain reaction amplification, and low stringency hybridization we have identified six novel frizzled homologues from mammals, at least 11 from zebrafish, several from chicken and sea urchin, and one from Caenorhabditis elegans. The complete deduced amino acid sequences of the mammalian and nematode homologues share with the Drosophila frizzled protein a conserved amino-terminal cysteine-rich domain and seven putative transmembrane segments. Each of the mammalian homologues is expressed in a distinctive set of tissues in the adult, and at least three are expressed during embryogenesis. As hypothesized for the Drosophila frizzled protein, the frizzled homologues are likely to act as transmembrane receptors for as yet unidentified ligands. These observations predict the existence of a family of signal transduction pathways that are homologous to the pathway that determines tissue polarity in Drosophila.