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Genes Dev. 2005 Sep 15;19(18):2116-21.

Hox genes specify vertebral types in the presomitic mesoderm.

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  • 1Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal.


We show here that expression of Hoxa10 in the presomitic mesoderm is sufficient to confer a Hox group 10 patterning program to the somite, producing vertebrae without ribs, an effect not achieved when Hoxa10 is expressed in the somites. In addition, Hox group 11-dependent vertebral sacralization requires Hoxa11 expression in the presomitic mesoderm, while their caudal differentiation requires that Hoxa11 is expressed in the somites. Therefore, Hox gene patterning activity is different in the somites and presomitic mesoderm, the latter being very prominent for Hox gene-mediated patterning of the axial skeleton. This is further supported by our finding that inactivation of Gbx2, a homeobox-containing gene expressed in the presomitic mesoderm but not in the somites, produced Hox-like phenotypes in the axial skeleton without affecting Hox gene expression.

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