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Evol Dev. 1999 Jul-Aug;1(1):16-23.

Ancient origins of axial patterning genes: Hox genes and ParaHox genes in the Cnidaria.

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1
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, 1027 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. j-finnerty@uchicago.edu

Abstract

Among the bilaterally symmetrical, triploblastic animals (the Bilateria), a conserved set of developmental regulatory genes are known to function in patterning the anterior-posterior (AP) axis. This set includes the well-studied Hox cluster genes, and the recently described genes of the ParaHox cluster, which is believed to be the evolutionary sister of the Hox cluster (Brooke et al. 1998). The conserved role of these axial patterning genes in animals as diverse as frogs and flies is believed to reflect an underlying homology (i.e., all bilaterians derive from a common ancestor which possessed an AP axis and the developmental mechanisms responsible for patterning the axis). However, the origin and early evolution of Hox genes and ParaHox genes remain obscure. Repeated attempts have been made to reconstruct the early evolution of Hox genes by analyzing data from the triphoblastic animals, the Bilateria (Schubert et al. 1993; Zhang and Nei 1996). A more precise dating of Hox origins has been elusive due to a lack of sufficient information from outgroup taxa such as the phylum Cnidaria (corals, hydras, jellyfishes, and sea anemones). In combination with outgroup taxa, another potential source of information about Hox origins is outgroup genes (e.g., the genes of the ParaHox cluster). In this article, we present cDNA sequences of two Hox-like genes (anthox2 and anthox6) from the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that anthox2 (= Cnox2) is homologous to the GSX class of ParaHox genes, and anthox6 is homologous to the anterior class of Hox genes. Therefore, the origin of Hox genes and ParaHox genes occurred prior to the evolutionary split between the Cnidaria and the Bilateria and predated the evolution of the anterior-posterior axis of bilaterian animals. Our analysis also suggests that the central Hox class was invented in the bilaterian lineage, subsequent to their split from the Cnidaria.

PMID:
11324016
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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