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Dev Biol. 2006 Oct 1;298(1):87-94. Epub 2006 Jul 28.

Knockdown of spalt function by RNAi causes de-repression of Hox genes and homeotic transformations in the crustacean Artemia franciscana.

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Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, 711 10 Iraklio Crete, Greece.


Hox genes play a central role in the specification of distinct segmental identities in the body of arthropods. The specificity of Hox genes depends on their restricted expression domains, their interaction with specific cofactors and selectivity for particular target genes. spalt genes are associated with the function of Hox genes in diverse species, but the nature of this association varies: in some cases, spalt collaborates with Hox genes to specify segmental identities, in others, it regulates Hox gene expression or acts as their target. Here we study the role of spalt in the branchiopod crustacean Artemia franciscana. We find that Artemia spalt is expressed in the pre-segmental 'growth zone' and in stripes in each of the trunk (thoracic, genital and post-genital) segments that emerge from this zone. Using RNA interference (RNAi), we show that knocking down the expression of spalt has pleiotropic effects, which include thoracic to genital (T-->G), genital to thoracic (G-->T) and post-genital to thoracic (PG-->T) homeotic transformations. These transformations are associated with a stochastic de-repression of Hox genes in the corresponding segments of RNAi-treated animals (AbdB for T-->G and Ubx/AbdA for G-->T and PG-->T transformations). We discuss a possible role of spalt in the maintenance of Hox gene repression in Artemia and in other animals.

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