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Front Zool. 2007 Mar 13;4:10.

Duplicated Hox genes in the spider Cupiennius salei.

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Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany.



Hox genes are expressed in specific domains along the anterior posterior body axis and define the regional identity. In most animals these genes are organized in a single cluster in the genome and the order of the genes in the cluster is correlated with the anterior to posterior expression of the genes in the embryo. The conserved order of the various Hox gene orthologs in the cluster among most bilaterians implies that such a Hox cluster was present in their last common ancestor. Vertebrates are the only metazoans so far that have been shown to contain duplicated Hox clusters, while all other bilaterians seem to possess only a single cluster.


We here show that at least three Hox genes of the spider Cupiennius salei are present as two copies in this spider. In addition to the previously described duplicated Ultrabithorax gene, we here present sequence and expression data of a second Deformed gene, and of two Sex comb reduced genes. In addition, we describe the sequence and expression of the Cupiennius proboscipedia gene. The spider Cupiennius salei is the first chelicerate for which orthologs of all ten classes of arthropod Hox genes have been described. The posterior expression boundary of all anterior Hox genes is at the tagma border of the prosoma and opisthosoma, while the posterior boundary of the posterior Hox genes is at the posterior end of the embryo.


The presence of at least three duplicated Hox genes points to a major duplication event in the lineage to this spider, perhaps even of the complete Hox cluster as has taken place in the lineage to the vertebrates. The combined data of all Cupiennius Hox genes reveal the existence of two distinct posterior expression boundaries that correspond to morphological tagmata boundaries.

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