Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 301 - 308 (2006)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.052034sp
© UPV/EHU Press

Pulling forces acting on Hox gene clusters cause expression collinearity

Spyros Papageorgiou*

Institute of Biology, NRC 'Demokritos', Aghia Paraskevi, Athens, Greece

ABSTRACT The development of normal patterns along the primary and secondary vertebrate axes depends on the regularity of early Hox gene expression. During initial stages, these expression events form a sequential pattern of partially overlapping domains along the anteroposterior axis in coincidence with the 3' to 5' order of the genes in the Hox cluster (spatial collinearity). In addition, the genes are activated one after the other in the 3' to 5'order (temporal collinearity). These features are poorly understood within the framework of Molecular Genetics. A model was proposed according to which physical forces act on Hox clusters as a result of signaling from morphogen gradients. The model can explain the collinearity of Hox gene expression along the primary and secondary body axes. The increase in the concentration of morphogen is accordingly followed by an increase of the force acting on the cluster. The genes are sequentially translocated, in the 3' to 5' order, toward the interchromosome domain where they are exposed to transcription factors for activation. The above geometrodynamic approach reproduces most collinearity data. Recent experiments verify the above prediction of sequential 3' to 5' Hox gene translocations in the interchromosome domain. Furthermore, it seems that these translocations, combined with cluster decondensations, are caused by attractive forces acting on the 3' end of the cluster and pulling the genes out of the chromosome territory. Additional experiments are proposed in order to specify the origin of the forces.

Keywords:

collinearity, Hox gene expression

*Corresponding author e-mail: spapage@bio.demokritos.gr