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J Exp Zool. 2002 Apr 15;294(1):30-46.

Hox cluster organization in the jawless vertebrate Petromyzon marinus.

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Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403, USA.


Large-scale gene amplifications may have facilitated the evolution of morphological innovations that accompanied the origin of vertebrates. This hypothesis predicts that the genomes of extant jawless fish, scions of deeply branching vertebrate lineages, should bear a record of these events. Previous work suggests that nonvertebrate chordates have a single Hox cluster, but that gnathostome vertebrates have four or more Hox clusters. Did the duplication events that produced multiple vertebrate Hox clusters occur before or after the divergence of agnathan and gnathostome lineages? Can investigation of lamprey Hox clusters illuminate the origins of the four gnathostome Hox clusters? To approach these questions, we cloned and sequenced 13 Hox cluster genes from cDNA and genomic libraries in the lamprey, Petromyzon marinus. The results suggest that the lamprey has at least four Hox clusters and support the model that gnathostome Hox clusters arose by a two-round-no-cluster-loss mechanism, with tree topology [(AB)(CD)]. A three-round model, however, is not rigorously excluded by the data and, for this model, the tree topologies [(D(C(AB))] and [(C(D(AB))] are most parsimonious. Gene phylogenies suggest that at least one Hox cluster duplication occurred in the lamprey lineage after it diverged from the gnathostome lineage. The results argue against two or more rounds of duplication before the divergence of agnathan and gnathostome vertebrates. If Hox clusters were duplicated in whole-genome duplication events, then these data suggest that, at most, one whole genome duplication occurred before the evolution of vertebrate developmental innovations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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