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Homeobox genes in mouse development.

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  • 1Dept. of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511.


Following the discovery of the homeobox as a conserved sequence in developmentally important genes of Drosophila, a plethora of such sequences have been identified in evolutionarily distant organisms. Among mammals, the mouse homeobox genes have been studied most intensively with a hope of deciphering basic mechanisms of embryonic development. The genomic arrangement of many mouse homeobox genes is similar to the organization of the Drosophila genes, suggesting that they arose as a consequence of gene duplication and divergence from a primordial cluster during evolution. Homeobox genes encode proteins that may form a part of the autoregulatory and transregulatory network specifying positional value in the embryo. Supporting this view, the more diverged members of this growing family function as transcription factors, some of which regulate the expression of tissue-specific genes. Mouse homeobox genes are expressed during embryonic development in a spatially restricted manner and alterations in their expression pattern can disrupt embryonic development. The implications of these findings will be discussed in the context of the role of homeobox genes in the embryonic development of Drosophila and other organisms.

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