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    Investigating regulation and function of the Hox genes, key regulators of positional identity in the embryo, opened a new vista in developmental biology. One of their most striking features is collinearity: the temporal and spatial orders of expression of these clustered genes each match their 3' to 5' order on the chromosome. Despite recent progress, the mechanisms underlying collinearity are not understood. Here we show that ectopic expression of 4 different single Hox genes predictably induces and represses expression of others, leading to development of different predictable specific sections of the body axis. We use ectopic expression in wild-type and noggin-dorsalised (Hox-free) Xenopus embryos, to show that two Hox-Hox interactions are important. Posterior induction (induction of posterior Hox genes by anterior ones: PI), drives Hox temporal collinearity (Hox timer), which itself drives anteroposterior (A-P) patterning. Posterior prevalence (repression of anterior Hox genes by posterior ones: PP) is important in translating temporal to spatial collinearity. We thus demonstrate for the first time that two collinear Hox interactions are important for vertebrate axial patterning. These findings considerably extend and clarify earlier work suggesting the existence and importance of PP and PI, and provide a major new insight into genesis of the body axis.


    Kongju Zhu, Herman P Spaink, Antony J Durston. Collinear Hox-Hox interactions are involved in patterning the vertebrate anteroposterior (A-P) axis. PloS one. 2017;12(4):e0175287

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    PMID: 28399140

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