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Dev Biol. 1997 Dec 15;192(2):274-88.

Hox group 3 paralogous genes act synergistically in the formation of somitic and neural crest-derived structures.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City 84112, USA.


Hox genes encode transcription factors that are used to regionalize the mammalian embryo. Analysis of mice carrying targeted mutations in individual and multiple Hox genes is beginning to reveal a complex network of interactions among these closely related genes which is responsible for directing the formation of spatially restricted tissues and structures. In this report we present an analysis of the genetic interactions between all members of the third paralogous group, Hoxa3, Hoxb3, and Hoxd3. Previous analysis has shown that although mice homozygous for loss-of-function mutations in either Hoxa3 or Hoxd3 have no defects in common, mice mutant for both genes demonstrate that these two genes strongly interact in a dosage-dependent manner. To complete the analysis of this paralogous gene family, mice with a targeted disruption of the Hoxb3 gene were generated. Homozygous mutants have minor defects at low penetrance in the formation of both the cervical vertebrae and the IXth cranial nerve. Analysis and comparison of all double-mutant combinations demonstrate that all three members of this paralogous group interact synergistically to affect the development of both neuronal and mesenchymal neural crest-derived structures, as well as somitic mesoderm-derived structures. Surprisingly, with respect to the formation of the cervical vertebrae, mice doubly mutant for Hoxa3 and Hoxd3 or Hoxb3 and Hoxd3 show an indistinguishable defect, loss of the entire atlas. This suggests that the identity of the specific Hox genes that are functional in a given region may not be as critical as the total number of Hox genes operating in that region.

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