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Dev Biol. 2001 May 15;233(2):468-81.

Differences in Krox20-dependent regulation of Hoxa2 and Hoxb2 during hindbrain development.

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Division of Developmental Neurobiology, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London, NW7 1AA, United Kingdom.


During hindbrain development, segmental regulation of the paralogous Hoxa2 and Hoxb2 genes in rhombomeres (r) 3 and 5 involves Krox20-dependent enhancers that have been conserved during the duplication of the vertebrate Hox clusters from a common ancestor. Examining these evolutionarily related control regions could provide important insight into the degree to which the basic Krox20-dependent mechanisms, cis-regulatory components, and their organization have been conserved. Toward this goal we have performed a detailed functional analysis of a mouse Hoxa2 enhancer capable of directing reporter expression in r3 and r5. The combined activities of five separate cis-regions, in addition to the conserved Krox20 binding sites, are involved in mediating enhancer function. A CTTT (BoxA) motif adjacent to the Krox20 binding sites is important for r3/r5 activity. The BoxA motif is similar to one (Box1) found in the Hoxb2 enhancer and indicates that the close proximity of these Box motifs to Krox20 sites is a common feature of Krox20 targets in vivo. Two other rhombomeric elements (RE1 and RE3) are essential for r3/r5 activity and share common TCT motifs, indicating that they interact with a similar cofactor(s). TCT motifs are also found in the Hoxb2 enhancer, suggesting that they may be another common feature of Krox20-dependent control regions. The two remaining Hoxa2 cis-elements, RE2 and RE4, are not conserved in the Hoxb2 enhancer and define differences in some of components that can contribute to the Krox20-dependent activities of these enhancers. Furthermore, analysis of regulatory activities of these enhancers in a Krox20 mutant background has uncovered differences in their degree of dependence upon Krox20 for segmental expression. Together, this work has revealed a surprising degree of complexity in the number of cis-elements and regulatory components that contribute to segmental expression mediated by Krox20 and sheds light on the diversity and evolution of Krox20 target sites and Hox regulatory elements in vertebrates.

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