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Open Access Research

Genesis and evolution of the Evx and Mox genes and the extended Hox and ParaHox gene clusters

Carolina Minguillón12 and Jordi Garcia-Fernàndez1*

Author Affiliations

1 Departament de Genètica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, E-08028 Barcelona, Spain

2 Current address: Division of Developmental Biology, National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA, UK

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Genome Biology 2003, 4:R12  doi:10.1186/gb-2003-4-2-r12

Published: 23 January 2003

Abstract

Background

Hox and ParaHox gene clusters are thought to have resulted from the duplication of a ProtoHox gene cluster early in metazoan evolution. However, the origin and evolution of the other genes belonging to the extended Hox group of homeobox-containing genes, that is, Mox and Evx, remains obscure. We constructed phylogenetic trees with mouse, amphioxus and Drosophila extended Hox and other related Antennapedia-type homeobox gene sequences and analyzed the linkage data available for such genes.

Results

We claim that neither Mox nor Evx is a Hox or ParaHox gene. We propose a scenario that reconciles phylogeny with linkage data, in which an Evx/Mox ancestor gene linked to a ProtoHox cluster was involved in a segmental tandem duplication event that generated an array of all Hox-like genes, referred to as the 'coupled' cluster. A chromosomal breakage within this cluster explains the current composition of the extended Hox cluster (with Evx, Hox and Mox genes) and the ParaHox cluster.

Conclusions

Most studies dealing with the origin and evolution of Hox and ParaHox clusters have not included the Hox-related genes Mox and Evx. Our phylogenetic analyses and the available linkage data in mammalian genomes support an evolutionary scenario in which an ancestor of Evx and Mox was linked to the ProtoHox cluster, and that a tandem duplication of a large genomic region early in metazoan evolution generated the Hox and ParaHox clusters, plus the cluster-neighbors Evx and Mox. The large 'coupled' Hox-like cluster EvxHox/MoxParaHox was subsequently broken, thus grouping the Mox and Evx genes to the Hox clusters, and isolating the ParaHox cluster.