Consequences of Hox gene duplication in the vertebrates: an investigation of the zebrafish Hox paralogue group 1 genes. Academic Article uri icon


  • As a result of a whole genome duplication event in the lineage leading to teleosts, the zebrafish has seven clusters of Hox patterning genes, rather than four, as described for tetrapod vertebrates. To investigate the consequences of this genome duplication, we have carried out a detailed comparison of genes from a single Hox paralogue group, paralogue group (PG) 1. We have analyzed the sequences, expression patterns and potential functions of all four of the zebrafish PG1 Hox genes, and compared our data with that available for the three mouse genes. As the basic functions of Hox genes appear to be tightly constrained, comparison with mouse data has allowed us to identify specific changes in the developmental roles of Hox genes that have occurred during vertebrate evolution. We have found variation in expression patterns, amino acid sequences within functional domains, and potential gene functions both within the PG1 genes of zebrafish, and in comparison to mouse PG1 genes. We observed novel expression patterns in the midbrain, such that zebrafish hoxa1a and hoxc1a are expressed anterior to the domain traditionally thought to be under Hox patterning control. The hoxc1a gene shows significant coding sequence changes in known functional domains, which correlate with a reduced capacity to cause posteriorizing transformations. Moreover, the hoxb1 duplicate genes have differing functional capacities, suggesting divergence after duplication. We also find that an intriguing function 'shuffling' between paralogues has occurred, such that one of the zebrafish hoxb1 duplicates, hoxb1b, performs the role in hindbrain patterning played in mouse by the non-orthologous Hoxa1 gene.

publication date

  • July 2001