Hox, Cdx, and anteroposterior patterning in the mouse embryo.

T. Young, J. Deschamps

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Cdx and Hox gene families descend from the same ProtoHox cluster, already present in the common ancestors of bilaterians and cnidarians, and thought to act by providing anteroposterior (A-P) positional identity to axial tissues in all bilaterians. Mouse Cdx and Hox genes still exhibit common features in their early expression and function. The initiation and early shaping of Hox and Cdx transcriptional domains in mouse embryos are very similar, in keeping with their common involvement in conveying A-P information to the nascent tissues during embryonic axial elongation. Considerations of the impact on axial patterning of the early expression phase of these genes that correlates with the temporally collinear expression of 3'-5'Hox genes suggest that it is concerned with the acquisition of A-P information by the three germ layers as the axis extends. This early A-P information acquired by all cells emerging from the primitive streak or tailbud and their neighbors in the caudal neural plate gets further modulated by the second phase of gene expression occurring later as the tissues mature and differentiate along the growing axis. We discuss the possibility that regulatory phase 1, common to all Cdx and Hox genes, is inherent to the concerted mechanism sequentially turning on 3'-5'Hox genes at early stages, and keeping expression of the initiated genes subsequently in the new materials added posteriorly at the axis extends. The posterior Hox gene expression domain would be subsequently complemented by Hox regulatory phase 2, consisting in a variety of gene-specific, region-specific, and/or tissue-specific gene expression controls. We also touch on the unanswered question whether vertebrate Cdx gene expression delivers A-P positional information in its own right, as Caudal does in Drosophila, or whether it does so exclusively by upregulating Hox genes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-255
JournalCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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