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Evol Dev. 2005 Sep-Oct;7(5):362-75.

Genomic annotation and transcriptome analysis of the zebrafish (Danio rerio) hox complex with description of a novel member, hox b 13a.

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  • 1Institute of Biology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 64, 2333 AL Leiden, The Netherlands.


The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is an important model in evolutionary developmental biology, and its study is being revolutionized by the zebrafish genome project. Sequencing is at an advanced stage, but annotation is largely the result of in silico analyses. We have performed genomic annotation, comparative genomics, and transcriptional analysis using microarrays of the hox homeobox-containing transcription factors. These genes have important roles in specifying the body plan. Candidate sequences were located in version Z v 4 of the Ensembl genome database by TBLASTN searching with Danio and other vertebrate published Hox protein sequences. Homologies were confirmed by alignment with reference sequences, and by the relative position of genes along each cluster. RT-PCR using adult Tübingen cDNA was used to confirm annotations, to check the genomic sequence and to confirm expression in vivo. Our RT-PCR and microarray data show that all 49 hox genes are expressed in adult zebrafish. Significant expression for all known hox genes could be detected in our microarray analysis. We also find significant expression of hox 8 paralogs and hox b 7 a in the anti-sense direction. A novel gene, D. rerio hox b 13 a, was identified, and a preliminary characterization by in situ hybridization showed expression at 24 hpf at the tip of the developing tail. We are currently characterizing this gene at the functional level. We argue that the oligo design for microarrays can be greatly enhanced by the availability of genomic sequences.

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