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Dev Cell. 2016 Aug 8;38(3):262-74. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2016.06.021. Epub 2016 Jul 21.

Oct4 Is a Key Regulator of Vertebrate Trunk Length Diversity.

Author information

1
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da Quinta Grande 6, 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal.
2
Department of Biology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 103610, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.
3
Department of Biology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 103610, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA; Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Genetics Institute, University of Florida, P.O. Box 103610, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.
4
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da Quinta Grande 6, 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal. Electronic address: mallo@igc.gulbenkian.pt.

Abstract

Vertebrates exhibit a remarkably broad variation in trunk and tail lengths. However, the evolutionary and developmental origins of this diversity remain largely unknown. Posterior Hox genes were proposed to be major players in trunk length diversification in vertebrates, but functional studies have so far failed to support this view. Here we identify the pluripotency factor Oct4 as a key regulator of trunk length in vertebrate embryos. Maintaining high Oct4 levels in axial progenitors throughout development was sufficient to extend trunk length in mouse embryos. Oct4 also shifted posterior Hox gene-expression boundaries in the extended trunks, thus providing a link between activation of these genes and the transition to tail development. Furthermore, we show that the exceptionally long trunks of snakes are likely to result from heterochronic changes in Oct4 activity during body axis extension, which may have derived from differential genomic rearrangements at the Oct4 locus during vertebrate evolution.

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PMID:
27453501
DOI:
10.1016/j.devcel.2016.06.021
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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