Hox genes form clusters. Invertebrates and Amphioxus have only one hox cluster, but in vertebrates, they are multiple, i.e., four in the basal teleost fish Polyodon and tetrapods (HoxA, B, C, D), but seven or eight in common teleosts. We earlier completely sequenced the entire hox gene loci in medaka fish, showing a total of 46 hox genes to be encoded in seven clusters (hoxAa, Ab, Ba, Bb, Ca, Da, Db). Among them, hoxAa, hoxAb and hoxDa clusters are presumed to be important for fin-to-limb evolution because of their key role in forelimb and pectoral fin development. In the present study, we compared genome organization and nucleotide sequences of the hoxAa and hoxAb clusters to these of tetrapod HoxA clusters, and found greater similarity in hoxAa case. We then analyzed expression of Abd-B family genes in the clusters. In the trunk, those from the hoxAa cluster, i.e., hoxA9a, hoxA10a, hoxA11a and hoxA13a, were expressed in a manner keeping the colinearity rule of the hox expression as those of tetrapods, while those from the hoxAb cluster, i.e., hoxA9b, hoxA10b, hoxA11b and hoxA13b, were not. In the pectoral fins, the hoxAa cluster was expressed in split domains and did not obey the rule. By contrast, those from the hoxAb and hoxDa clusters were expressed in a manner keeping the rule, i.e., an ancestral pattern similar to those of tetrapods. It is plausible that this differential expression of the two clusters is caused by changes occurred in global control regions after cluster duplications.
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