Are the deuterostome posterior Hox genes a fast-evolving class?

Robert Lanfear

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4 Citations (Scopus)


There has been a great deal of interest in analysing the molecular evolution of the Hox cluster using both bioinformatic and experimental approaches. The posterior Hox genes have been of particular interest to both groups of biologists for a number of reasons: they appear to be associated with the evolution of a number of morphological novelties; the protostomes appear to be have lost a highly-conserved and functionally important amino acid motif (the hexapeptide motif) from their posterior Hox genes; and deuterostome posterior Hox genes seem to be evolving more quickly than all other Hox genes. In this chapter I will discuss the last of these points. The idea that Deuterostome posterior Hox genes were evolving more quickly than other Hox genes was first suggested by David Ferrier and colleagues. In this chapter, I start by introducing the posterior Hox genes--their distribution among the animal phyla and the likely sequence of duplications that led to this distribution. I then introduce the idea of 'deuterostome posterior flexibility' and examine this hypothesis in light of more recent phylogenetic and genomic work on the Hox cluster. Finally, I discuss some new approaches that could be used to test directly for differential rates of evolution among Hox genes and to assess what might underlie these differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-122
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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