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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Oct 19;101(42):15118-23. Epub 2004 Oct 6.

Ciona intestinalis Hox gene cluster: Its dispersed structure and residual colinear expression in development.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Hachiohji, Tokyo 192-0397, Japan.


Ascidians, belonging to the subphylum Urochordata, the earliest branch from the lineage to the vertebrates, exhibit a prototypical morphogenesis of chordates in the larval development, although they subsequently metamorphose into adults with a unique body structure. Recent draft genome analysis of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis has identified 9 Hox genes, which, however, have been located on five scaffolds. Similarly, expression patterns of Ciona Hox genes are largely unknown, although some data have been available for a few Hox member genes. Thus, the cluster structure and colinearity of Hox genes are still an enigma in C. intestinalis. To address these issues, we used fluorescence in situ hybridization and whole-mount in situ hybridization techniques and examined the genomic organization and spatiotemporal expression of all Hox as well as extended Hox member genes (Evx and Mox) of C. intestinalis. We found that seven of nine Ciona Hox genes are located on a single chromosome with some ordering exceptions, and the other genes, including Evx and Mox, are located on three other chromosomes. Some Ciona Hox genes, if not all, exhibited spatially coordinated expression within the larval central nervous system and the gut of the juvenile. In light of these observations, we suggest that the cluster organization and colinearity of the Hox genes are under dispersing and disintegrating conditions in C. intestinalis.

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