Hox gene expression during postlarval development of the polychaete Alitta virens

  • Bakalenko N
  • Novikova E
  • Nesterenko A
  • et al.
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BACKGROUND: Hox genes are the family of transcription factors that play a key role in the patterning of the anterior-posterior axis of all bilaterian animals. These genes display clustered organization and colinear expression. Expression boundaries of individual Hox genes usually correspond with morphological boundaries of the body. Previously, we studied Hox gene expression during larval development of the polychaete Alitta virens (formerly Nereis virens) and discovered that Hox genes are expressed in nereid larva according to the spatial colinearity principle. Adult Alitta virens consist of multiple morphologically similar segments, which are formed sequentially in the growth zone. Since the worm grows for most of its life, postlarval segments constantly change their position along the anterior-posterior axis.RESULTS: We studied the expression dynamics of the Hox cluster during postlarval development of the nereid Alitta virens and found that 8 out of 11 Hox genes are transcribed as wide gene-specific gradients in the ventral nerve cord, ectoderm, and mesoderm. The expression domains constantly shift in accordance with the changing proportions of the growing worm, so expression domains of most Hox genes do not have stable anterior or/and posterior boundaries.In the course of our study, we revealed long antisense RNA (asRNA) for some Hox genes. Expression patterns of two of these genes were analyzed using whole-mount in-situ hybridization. This is the first discovery of antisense RNA for Hox genes in Lophotrochozoa.CONCLUSION: Hox gene expression in juvenile A. virens differs significantly from Hox gene expression patterns both in A. virens larva and in other Bilateria.We suppose that the postlarval function of the Hox genes in this polychaete is to establish and maintain positional coordinates in a constantly growing body, as opposed to creating morphological difference between segments.




Bakalenko, N. I., Novikova, E. L., Nesterenko, A. Y., & Kulakova, M. A. (2013). Hox gene expression during postlarval development of the polychaete Alitta virens. EvoDevo, 4(1), 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/2041-9139-4-13

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