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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 May 9;92(10):4492-6.

Gain of function mutations for paralogous Hox genes: implications for the evolution of Hox gene function.

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  • 1Department of Virology, Jerome H. Holland Laboratory, Rockville, MD 20855, USA.


To investigate the functions of paralogous Hox genes, we compared the phenotypic consequences of altering the embryonic patterns of expression of Hoxb-8 and Hoxc-8 in transgenic mice. A comparison of the phenotypic consequences of altered expression of the two paralogs in the axial skeletons of newborns revealed an array of common transformations as well as morphological changes unique to each gene. Divergence of function of the two paralogs was clearly evident in costal derivatives, where increased expression of the two genes affected opposite ends of the ribs. Many of the morphological consequences of expanding the mesodermal domain and magnitude of expression of either gene were atavistic, inducing the transformation of axial skeletal structures from a modern to an earlier evolutionary form. We propose that regional specialization of the vertebral column has been driven by regionalization of Hox gene function and that a major aspect of this evolutionary progression may have been restriction of Hox gene expression.

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