Hox genes and segmentation of the hindbrain and axial skeleton

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2009;25:431-56. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.042308.113423.


Segmentation is an important process that is frequently used during development to segregate groups of cells with distinct features. Segmental compartments provide a mechanism for generating and organizing regional properties along an embryonic axis and within tissues. In vertebrates the development of two major systems, the hindbrain and the paraxial mesoderm, displays overt signs of compartmentalization and depends on the process of segmentation for their functional organization. The hindbrain plays a key role in regulating head development, and it is a complex coordination center for motor activity, breathing rhythms, and many unconscious functions. The paraxial mesoderm generates somites, which give rise to the axial skeleton. The cellular processes of segmentation in these two systems depend on ordered patterns of Hox gene expression as a mechanism for generating a combinatorial code that specifies unique identities of the segments and their derivatives. In this review, we compare and contrast the signaling inputs and transcriptional mechanisms by which Hox gene regulatory networks are established during segmentation in these two different systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Bone and Bones / embryology*
  • Extremities / embryology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Rhombencephalon / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / metabolism