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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Progressively restricted expression of a homeo box gene within the aboral ectoderm of developing sea urchin embryos.

A homeo box-containing gene, Hbox1 is expressed in an unusual and highly conserved spatial pattern in embryos of two different species of sea urchin, Tripneustes gratilla and Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Hybridization in situ shows that this mRNA accumulates initially throughout the aboral ectoderm; however, between blastula and pluteus stages, the region containing Hbox1 mRNA retracts gradually until only a small area around the vertex is labeled in pluteus larvae. Aboral ectoderm appears cytologically uniform and also accumulates uniform levels of other tissue-specific mRNAs. Therefore, the Hbox1 pattern reveals a previously unsuspected heterogeneity of aboral ectoderm cells and a polarity within this tissue. In S. purpuratus, the Hbox1 gene product probably is not involved in initial specification of cell fate, as this message does not achieve a significant fraction of its peak abundance until almost hatching blastula stage, well after the time aboral ectoderm cells have initiated a tissue-specific program of gene expression. RNA blot and RNase protection analyses revealed low levels of Hbox1 mRNA in all adult tissues examined. However, this message was not detectable in mature eggs, suggesting that the Hbox1 gene does not have a maternal function. In addition to highly conserved spatial and temporal patterns of expression, the homeo box genes of these two urchin species also are conserved highly in sequences outside the homeo domain, despite the divergence of these two species (30-45 my). Two notable features of the protein shared with several vertebrate homeo proteins are a short conserved sequence encoded by an exon upstream of that encoding the homeo domain and a large region of high serine and proline content.[1]


  1. Progressively restricted expression of a homeo box gene within the aboral ectoderm of developing sea urchin embryos. Angerer, L.M., Dolecki, G.J., Gagnon, M.L., Lum, R., Wang, G., Yang, Q., Humphreys, T., Angerer, R.C. Genes Dev. (1989) [Pubmed]
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