Evolution of Hox3 and ftz in arthropods: insights from the crustacean Daphnia pulex
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The Drosophila melanogaster genes zerknüllt (zen) and fushi tarazu (ftz) are members of the Hox gene family whose roles have changed significantly in the insect lineage and thus provide an opportunity to study the mechanisms underlying the functional evolution of Hox proteins. We have studied the expression of orthologs of zen (DpuHox3) and ftz (Dpuftz) in the crustacean Daphnia pulex (Branchiopoda), both of which show a dynamic expression pattern. DpuHox3 is expressed in a complex pattern in early embryogenesis, with the most anterior boundary of expression lying at the anterior limit of the second antennal segment as well as a ring of expression around the embryo. In later embryos, DpuHox3 expression is restricted to the mesoderm of mandibular limb buds. Dpuftz is first expressed in a ring around the embryo following the posterior limit of the mandibular segment. Later, Dpuftz is restricted to the posterior part of the mandibular segment. This is the first report of expression of a Hox3 ortholog in a crustacean, and together with Dpuftz data, the results presented here show that Hox3 and ftz have retained a Hox-like expression pattern in crustaceans. This is in accordance with the proposed model of Hox3 and ftz evolution in arthropods and allows a more precise pinpointing of the loss of ftz “Hox-like behaviour”: in the lineage between the Branchiopoda and the basal insect Thysanura.