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Evol Dev. 2004 Nov-Dec;6(6):423-30.

Conserved expression domains for genes upstream and within the HoxA and HoxD clusters suggests a long-range enhancer existed before cluster duplication.

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Department of Human Genetics, Division of Genetics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


The posterior HoxA and HoxD genes are essential in appendicular development. Studies have demonstrated that a "distal limb enhancer," remotely located upstream of the HoxD complex, is required to drive embryonic autopod expression of the posterior Hox genes as well as the two additional non-Hox genes in the region: Evx2 and Lnp. Our work demonstrates a similar mode of regulation for Hoxa13 and four upstream genes: Evx1, Hibadh, Tax1bp, and Jaz1. These genes all show embryonic (E11.5-E13.5) distal limb and genital bud expression, suggesting the existence of a nearby enhancer influencing the expression of a domain of genes. Comparative sequence analysis between homologous human and mouse genomic sequence upstream of Hoxa13 revealed a remote 2.25-kb conserved noncoding sequence (mmA13CNS) within the fourth intron of the Hibadh gene. mmA13CNS shares a common 131-bp core identity within a conserved noncoding sequence upstream of Hoxd13, which is located within the previously identified distal limb enhancer critical region. To test the function of this conserved sequence, we created mmA13CNS-Hsp86-lacZ transgenic mice. mmA13CNS directed a wide range of tissue expression, including the central nervous system, developing olfactory tissue, limb, and genital bud. Limb and genital bud expression directed by mmA13CNS is not identical to the patterns exhibited by Hoxa13/Evx1/Hibadh/Tax1bp1/Jaz1, suggesting that mmA13CNS is not sufficient to fully recapitulate their expression in those tissues. The Evx1- and Evx2-like central nervous system expression observed in these mice suggests that the long-range regulatory element(s) for the Hox cluster existed before the cluster duplication.

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