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Development. 1996 May;122(5):1651-61.

A C. elegans Hox gene switches on, off, on and off again to regulate proliferation, differentiation and morphogenesis.

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UCSF Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, San Francisco, CA 94143-0554, USA.


Hox genes establish body pattern throughout the animal kingdom, but the role these genes play at the cellular level to modify and shape parts of the body remains a mystery. We find that the C. elegans Antennapedia homolog, mab-5, sequentially programs many independent events within individual cell lineages. In one body region, mab-5 first switches ON in a lineage to stimulate proliferation, then OFF to specify epidermal structures, then ON in just one branch of the lineage to promote neuroblast formation, and finally OFF to permit proper sense organ morphology. In a neighboring lineage, continuous mab-5 expression leads to a different pattern of development. Thus, this Hox gene achieves much of its power to diversify the anteroposterior axis through fine spatiotemporal differences in expression coupled with a changing pattern of cellular response.

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