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Collinear activation of Hoxb genes during gastrulation is linked to mesoderm cell ingression

Nature volume 442, pages 568571 (03 August 2006) | Download Citation



The vertebral column exhibits segmentation and regionalization along the antero-posterior axis. During embryogenesis, the rhythmic production of the precursors of the vertebrae, the somites, imposes a segmented aspect to the spine, whereas the spine's regional differentiation is controlled by Hox genes1,2. Here we show that in the paraxial mesoderm, Hoxb genes are first activated in a temporal collinear fashion in precursors located in the epiblast lateral to the primitive streak. Our data suggest that collinear activation of Hoxb genes regulates the flux of cells from the epiblast to the streak and thus directly controls the establishment of the genes' characteristic nested expression domains in the somites. This suggests that establishment of the spatial co-linearity in the embryo is directly controlled by the Hox genes themselves.

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We thank S. Abmayr, R. Krumlauf and D. Wellik for comments on the manuscript; X.-S. Yang and C. Weijer for sharing their expertise in fate mapping and for discussions; members of the Pourquié laboratory for sharing reagents and for discussions; C. Tomomori-Sato and S. Sato of the Conaway laboratory for discussions; and S. Esteban for artwork. This work was supported by the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and the NIH. O.P. is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

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  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 1000 E. 50th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64110, USA

    • Tadahiro Iimura
    •  & Olivier Pourquié


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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Olivier Pourquié.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Figure 1

    Double whole mount in situ hybridization of Sox 2 and HoxB7. Onset of Hoxb7 expression (blue) is in the epiblast adjacent to the primitive streak and this Hox domain is at a distance from the neural territory marked by Sox2 (red).

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Tables

    Supplementary Tables 1–3 show the result of each experiment in which caudal-most and rostral-most distribution of labeled cells by Hox-reporter construct were scored by somite number along anterior-posterior axis. The stage and area of each embryo at which graft and/or electroporation were carried out are also indicated. Supplementary Table 1 is a summary of Hox electroporation and graft experiments. Supplementary Table 2 is a summary of successive Hox electroporation experiments. Supplementary Table 3 is a summary of Heterochronic graft experiments.

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    Supplementary Methods

    This file contains additional details of the methods used in this study.

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