Indexed on: 29 Oct '10Published on: 29 Oct '10Published in: Journal of Molecular Evolution
As a result of two-round whole genome duplications, four or more paralogous Hox clusters exist in vertebrate genomes. The paralogous genes in the Hox clusters show similar expression patterns, implying shared regulatory mechanisms for expression of these genes. Previous studies partly revealed the expression mechanisms of Hox genes. However, cis-regulatory elements that control these paralogous gene expression are still poorly understood. Toward solving this problem, the authors searched conserved non-coding sequences (CNSs), which are candidates of cis-regulatory elements. When comparing orthologous Hox clusters of 19 vertebrate species, 208 intergenic conserved regions were found. The authors then searched for CNSs that were conserved not only between orthologous clusters but also among the four paralogous Hox clusters. The authors found three regions that are conserved among all the four clusters and eight regions that are conserved between intergenic regions of two paralogous Hox clusters. In total, 28 CNSs were identified in the paralogous Hox clusters, and nine of them were newly found in this study. One of these novel regions bears a RARE motif. These CNSs are candidates for gene expression regulatory regions among paralogous Hox clusters. The authors also compared vertebrate CNSs with amphioxus CNSs within the Hox cluster, and found that two CNSs in the HoxA and HoxB clusters retain homology with amphioxus CNSs through the two-round whole genome duplications.