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J Invest Dermatol. 1998 Feb;110(2):110-5.

HOX homeobox genes exhibit spatial and temporal changes in expression during human skin development.

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Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, USA.


The spatial and temporal deployment of HOX homeobox genes along the spinal axis and in limb buds during fetal development is a key program in embryonic pattern formation. Although we have previously reported that several of the HOX homeobox genes are expressed during murine skin development, there is no information about developmental expression of HOX genes in human skin. We have now used reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, in conjunction with a set of degenerate oligonucleotide primers, to identify a subset of HOX genes that are expressed during human fetal skin development. In situ hybridization analyses demonstrated that there were temporal and spatial shifts in expression of these genes. Strong HOXA4 expression was detected in the basal cell layers of 10 wk fetal epidermis and throughout the epidermis and dermis of 17 wk skin, whereas weak signal was present in the granular layer of newborn and adult skin. The expression patterns of HOXA5 and HOXA7 were similar, but their expression was weaker. In situ hybridization analysis also revealed strong HOXC4 and weaker HOXB7 expression throughout fetal development, whereas HOXB4 was expressed at barely detectable levels. Differential HOX gene expression was also observed in developing hair follicles, and sebaceous and sweat glands. None of the HOX genes examined were detected in the adult dermis.

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