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Mech Dev. 1996 Oct;59(2):165-75.

Zebrafish Hoxa and Evx-2 genes: cloning, developmental expression and implications for the functional evolution of posterior Hox genes.

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  • 1Department of Zoology and Animal Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland.


Vertebrate Hox genes are required for the establishment of regional identities along body axes. This gene family is strongly conserved among vertebrates, even in bony fish which display less complex ranges of axial morphologies. We have analysed the structural organization and expression of Abd-B related zebrafish HoxA cluster genes (Hoxa-9, Hoxa-10, Hoxa-11 and Hoxa-13) as well as of Evx-2, a gene closely linked to the HoxD complex. We show that the genomic organization of Hoxa genes in fish resembles that of tetrapods albeit intergenic distances are shorter. During development of the fish trunk, Hoxa genes are coordinately expressed, whereas in pectoral fins, they display transcript domains similar to those observed in developing tetrapod limbs. Likewise, the Evx-2 gene seems to respond to both Hox- and Evx-types of regulation. During fin development, this latter gene is expressed as the neighbouring Hox genes, in contrast to its expression in the central nervous system which does not comply with colinearity and extends up to anterior parts of the brain. These results are discussed in the context of the functional evolution of Hoxa versus Hoxd genes and their different roles in building up paired appendages.

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