Knots in the family tree: evolutionary relationships and functions of knox homeobox genes

Plant Mol Biol. 2000 Jan;42(1):151-66.


Knotted-like homeobox (knox) genes constitute a gene family in plants. Class I knox genes are expressed in shoot apical meristems, and (with notable exceptions) not in lateral organ primordia. Class II genes have more diverse expression patterns. Loss and gain of function mutations indicate that knox genes are important regulators of meristem function. Gene duplication has contributed to the evolution of families of homeodomain proteins in metazoans. We believe that similar mechanisms have contributed to the diversity of knox gene function in plants. Knox genes may have contributed to the evolution of compound leaves in tomato and could be involved in the evolution of morphological traits in other species. Alterations in cis-regulatory regions in some knox genes correlate with novel patterns of gene expression and distinctive morphologies. Preliminary data from the analysis of class I knox gene expression illustrates the evolution of complex patterns of knox expression is likely to have occurred through loss and gain of domains of gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Homeobox / genetics*
  • Genes, Plant / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology
  • Phylogeny*


  • Homeodomain Proteins