Hox genes provide blueprint for a diversity of body plan features, SF State researchers find
Hox genes are master body-building genes that specify where an animal's head, tail and everything in between should go. There's even a special Hox gene program that directs the development of limbs and fins, including specific modifications such as the thumb in mice and humans. Now, San Francisco State University researchers show that this fin- and limb-building genetic program is also utilized during the development of other vertebrate features.
The discovery means this ancient genetic program is employed in a variety of features beyond fins and limbs. For instance, this Hox program helps to pattern the barbels in paddlefish -- sensory organs near the fish's mouth. In addition, the limb-building program had previously been observed in a cluster of genes called the HoxD genes.
But SF State Associate Professor of Biology Karen Crow and her colleagues demonstrated for the first time that the program also operates in the HoxA cluster of genes during the development of the vent, a structure in all ray-finned fishes that is similar to a urethra, indicating that the regulation of this expression pattern is older and more widely utilized than thought.
Together, these new findings "really expand our view of this Hox limb-building program," said Crow. "Now we think it could be associated with all kinds of features that arise in different species."
"There is tremendous interest in animal diversity and how novel features arise in evolution," she added, "and we're just beginning to understand the genetic basis of morphological diversity."
Hox genes are the master regulatory genes that specify the identity and position of body parts during an animal's development. Hox genes are expressed at different times and places in the developing embryo, and that pattern of expression "acts like a code that sets up an address system for body parts," Crow explained.
One kind of Hox expression pattern establishes the "address" for the head-to-tail locations of body parts. But a reversal of this pattern, for some Hox genes, creates a code that specifies body parts that extend out away from the body, like fins, limbs, or now even barbels or vents. Evolutionary biologists have been intensely interested in this limb-building program, because it is part of the genetic basis of how fins evolved to become limbs, and how specialized structures arose in human evolution, such as the genetic code that specifies the thumb should be different from the other digits.
Researchers know that this limb-building program has operated at least since the origin of jawed vertebrates, some 440-480 million years ago. "So we wondered if this Hox repertoire is being utilized in all kinds of other features that people haven't yet looked at," said Crow.
Since discovering this particular Hox program in barbels and vents, Crow's lab has found the program operating in the development of claspers in skates and rays. They are now looking to see if the program helps direct the patterning of other appendages, like the manta ray's distinctively curled head fins called cephalic lobes, or the brood structures where seahorses and pipefish carry their young.
"I think this genetic program is deployed in all kinds of vertebrate features that have yet to be discovered," Crow said. "We're just beginning to understand the underlying genetic basis of different structures in different animals. And, surprisingly, some aspects of those genetic instructions are shared."
"HoxA and HoxD expression in a variety of vertebrate body plan features reveals an ancient origin for the distal Hox program" by Crow, Sophie Archambeault and Julia Ann Taylor was published online Nov. 19 in the journal EvoDevo. The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.
SF State is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls nearly 30,000 students each year and offers nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema, biology and history to broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies. The University's more than 228,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond.
Jonathan Morales | EurekAlert!
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine