Evolutionary shifts of vertebrate structures and Hox expression up and down the axial series of segments: a consideration of possible mechanisms

Int J Dev Biol. 2000;44(1):109-17.


The term 'transposition' describes how, during vertebrate evolution, anatomical structures have shifted up or down the axial series of segments. For example, the neck/thorax junction and the position of the forelimb in the chicken have shifted posteriorly, relative to mouse, by a distance of seven somites or vertebrae. By examining the expression boundaries of some chick Hox genes not previously described, we provide new evidence that axial shifts in anatomical structures correspond with shifts in Hox expression domains. These shifts occur both in mesodermal components (somites, vertebrae, and lateral plate mesoderm) and neural components (spinal ganglia). We discuss morphogen gradient, timing, spreading, and growth models for the setting of Hoxexpression boundaries, and consider how evolutionary shifts in boundary positions might have been effected in terms of these models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Morphogenesis
  • Somites / metabolism*
  • Vertebrates / anatomy & histology
  • Vertebrates / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Homeodomain Proteins