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Two more Posterior Hox genes and Hox cluster dispersal in echinoderms

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Abstract

Background: Hox genes are key elements in patterning animal development. They are renowned for their, often, clustered organisation in the genome, with supposed mechanistic links between the organisation of the genes and their expression. The widespread distribution and comparable functions of Hox genes across the animals has led to them being a major study system for comparing the molecular bases for construction and divergence of animal morphologies. Echinoderms (including sea urchins, sea stars, sea cucumbers, feather stars and brittle stars) possess one of the most unusual body plans in the animal kingdom with pronounced pentameral symmetry in the adults. Consequently, much interest has focused on their development, evolution and the role of the Hox genes in these processes. In this context, the organisation of echinoderm Hox gene clusters is distinctive. Within the classificatory system of Duboule, echinoderms constitute one of the clearest examples of Disorganized (D) clusters (i.e. intact clusters but with a gene order or orientation rearranged relative to the ancestral state).
Results: Here we describe two Hox genes (Hox11/13d and e) that have been overlooked in most previous work and have not been considered in reconstructions of echinoderm Hox complements and cluster organisation. The two genes are related to Posterior Hox genes and are present in all classes of echinoderm. Importantly, they do not reside in the Hox cluster of any species for which genomic linkage data is available.
Conclusion: Incorporating the two neglected Posterior Hox genes into assessments of echinoderm Hox gene complements and organisation shows that these animals in fact have Split (S) Hox clusters rather than simply Disorganized (D) clusters within the Duboule classification scheme. This then has implications for how these genes are likely regulated, with them no longer covered by any potential long-range Hox cluster-wide, or multigenic sub-cluster, regulatory mechanisms.
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Original languageEnglish
Article number203
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Volume18
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Dec 2018

    Research areas

  • Hox11/13d, Hox11/13e, Posterior Hox genes, Hox gene evolution

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