The Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway plays a crucial role in the embryonic development of metazoans. Although the pathway has been studied extensively in many model animals, its function in amphioxus, the most primitive chordate, remains largely uncharacterized. To obtain basic data for functional analysis, we identified and isolated seven genes (Lrp5
, and Gro
) of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway from the amphioxus ( Branchiostoma floridae
) genome. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that amphioxus had fewer members of each gene family than that found in vertebrates. Whole-mount in situ
hybridization showed that the genes were maternally expressed and broadly distributed throughout the whole embryo at the cleavage and blastula stages. Among them, Dvl
was expressed asymmetrically towards the animal pole, while the others were evenly distributed in all blastomeres. At the mid-gastrula stage, the genes were specifically expressed in the primitive endomesoderm, but displayed different patterns. When the embryo developed into the neurula stage, the gene expressions were mainly detected in either paraxial somites or the tail bud. With the development of the embryo, the expression levels further decreased gradually and remained only in some pharyngeal regions or the tail bud at the larva stage. Our results suggest that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway might be involved in amphioxus somite formation and posterior growth, but not in endomesoderm specification.