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Mol Hum Reprod. 1997 Feb;3(2):115-31.

Developmental functions of mammalian Hox genes.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS/INSERM/Université Louis Pasteur, Illkirch, France.


The structure of the four murine Hox complexes and the co-ordinate expression patterns of Hox genes have been elucidated for almost a decade. However, clues about their developmental functions have been recently uncovered from the analysis of loss-of-function mutants generated by the gene targeting technique, as well as from transgenic mice with altered Hox gene expression domains. The 'anterior' Hox genes control the morphogenetic programme of specific hindbrain segments (rhombomeres) or pharyngeal arch neural crest derivatives. Various studies indicate that Hox gene products act in a region-specific, combinatorial and partly redundant manner to specify the identities of developing vertebrae. In addition, 'posterior' HoxA and HoxD genes act coordinately to control the growth and morphogenesis of skeletal structures along the proximodistal axis of developing limbs. Studies in other vertebrate model systems suggest that the evolution of Hox gene functions has allowed for the acquisition of specific morphological features along both the vertebral column and limbs of tetrapods. Gene targeting studies have also revealed region-specific functions of Hox genes along the developing digestive and genito-urinary tracts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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