Welcome to the Nature Reviews Genetics web focus on the body plan

 - a selection of recently published Reviews on this topic.



The genesis and evolution of homeobox gene clusters

Jordi Garcia-Fernàndez

doi: 10.1038/nrg1723

Nature Reviews Genetics 6, 881-892 (2005)

The crucial function of homeobox genes in patterning the body has been appreciated for decades. This article pulls together existing data to explain how the current clustered organization of Hox genes, and that of the related ParaHox and NK clusters, came about, the forces that preserve gene clustering and the contribution of Hox, ParaHox and NK genes to the major evolutionary transitions in animal body plan.

Modulating Hox gene functions during animal body patterning

Joseph C. Pearson, Derek Lemons and William McGinnis

doi: 10.1038/nrg1726

Nature Reviews Genetics 6, 893-904 (2005)

The function of Hox proteins in axial patterning and morphological evolution ultimately depends on the effects of these proteins on downstream targets. This article reviews four important lines of research into Hox function - including work to identify the nature of Hox targets and define the structure of target enhancers, and the recent realization that Hox gene expression might be modulated by conserved microRNAs.

Arthropod segmentation: beyond the Drosophila paradigm

Andrew D. Peel, Ariel D. Chipman and Michael Akam

doi: 10.1038/nrg1724

Nature Reviews Genetics 6, 905-916 (2005)

Genetic studies of Drosophila melanogaster have laid the foundations of our understanding of axial development. But just how universal is this fly model? The growing number of experimental methods that have become available for other arthropods is revealing a surprising diversity of pattering mechanisms, and allows us to formulate a model of how segmentation mechanisms might have evolved.

The evolution of metazoan axial properties

Mark Q. Martindale

doi: 10.1038/nrg1725

Nature Reviews Genetics 6, 917-927 (2005)

Multicellular animals come in many shapes and forms but they owe their body organization to the emergence of three design features - the anterior-posterior and dorso-ventral axes, and the three germ layers. Morphological and, more recently, molecular analyses on four basal metazoan taxa have begun to reveal how such features emerged and evolved, although a consensus model will depend on a stronger phylogenetic framework and a broader sampling of informative taxa.


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