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Development. 2000 Dec;127(24):5355-65.

Homeotic transformation of branchial arch identity after Hoxa2 overexpression.

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MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, King's College, Guy's Campus, London SE1 1UL, UK.


Overexpression of Hoxa2 in the chick first branchial arch leads to a transformation of first arch cartilages, such as Meckel's and the quadrate, into second arch elements, such as the tongue skeleton. These duplicated elements are fused to the original in a similar manner to that seen in the Hoxa2 knockout, where the reverse transformation of second to first arch morphology is observed. This confirms the role of Hoxa2 as a selector gene specifying second arch fate. When first arch neural crest alone is targeted, first arch elements are lost, but the Hoxa2-expressing crest is unable to develop into second arch elements. This is not due to Hoxa2 preventing differentiation of cartilages. Upregulation of a second arch marker in the first arch, and homeotic transformation of cartilage elements is only produced after global Hoxa2 overexpression in the crest and the surrounding tissue. Thus, although the neural crest appears to contain some patterning information, it needs to read cues from the environment to form a coordinated pattern. Hoxa2 appears to exert its effect during differentiation of the cartilage elements in the branchial arches, rather than during crest migration, implying that pattern is determined quite late in development.

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