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Seeking Sense in the Hox Gene Cluster

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jats:pThe Hox gene cluster, responsible for patterning of the head–tail axis, is an ancestral feature of all bilaterally symmetrical animals (the Bilateria) that remains intact in a wide range of species. We can say that the Hox cluster evolved successfully only once since it is commonly the same in all groups, with labial-like genes at one end of the cluster expressed in the anterior embryo, and Abd-B-like genes at the other end of the cluster expressed posteriorly. This review attempts to make sense of the Hox gene cluster and to address the following questions. How did the Hox cluster form in the protostome-deuterostome last common ancestor, and why was this with a particular head–tail polarity? Why is gene clustering usually maintained? Why is there collinearity between the order of genes along the cluster and the positions of their expressions along the embryo? Why do the Hox gene expression domains overlap along the embryo? Why have vertebrates duplicated the Hox cluster? Why do Hox gene knockouts typically result in anterior homeotic transformations? How do animals adapt their Hox clusters to evolve new structural patterns along the head–tail axis?</jats:p>


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, U.K.


Review, Hox cluster, collinearity, evolution, axial morphology, gene knockout, Bilateria, Cnidaria

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Journal of Developmental Biology

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