Hox gene expression reveals regionalization along the anteroposterior axis of the zebrafish notochord
The vertebrate Hox genes have been shown to confer regional identity along the anteroposterior axis of the developing embryo, especially within the central nervous system (CNS) and the paraxial mesoderm. The notochord has been shown to play vital roles in patterning adjacent tissues along both the dorsoventral and mediolateral axes. However, the notochord’s role in imparting anteroposterior information to adjacent structures is less well understood, especially as the notochord shows no morphological distinctions along the anteroposterior axis and is not generally described as a segmental or compartmentalized structure. Here we report that four zebrafish hox genes: hoxb1, hoxb5, hoxc6 and hoxc8 are regionally expressed along the anteroposterior extent of the developing notochord. Notochord expression for each gene is transient, but maintains a definite, gene-specific anterior limit throughout its duration. The hox gene expression in the zebrafish notochord is spatially colinear with those genes lying most 3’ in the hox clusters having the most anterior limits. The expression patterns of these hox cluster genes in the zebrafish are the most direct molecular evidence for a system of anteroposterior regionalization of the notochord in any vertebrate studied to date.
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