Hox-mediated endodermal identity patterns pharyngeal muscle formation in the chordate pharynx

Development. 2017 May 1;144(9):1629-1634. doi: 10.1242/dev.144436. Epub 2017 Mar 13.


The chordate pharynx, possessing gill slits and the endostyle, is a complex of multiple tissues that are highly organized along the anterior-posterior (AP) axis. Although Hox genes show AP coordinated expression in the pharyngeal endoderm, tissue-specific roles of these factors for establishing the regional identities within this tissue have not been demonstrated. Here, we show that Hox1 is essential for the establishment of AP axial identity of the endostyle, a major structure of the pharyngeal endoderm, in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis We found that knockout of Hox1 causes posterior-to-anterior transformation of the endostyle identity, and that Hox1 represses Otx expression and anterior identity, and vice versa. Furthermore, alteration of the regional identity of the endostyle disrupts the formation of body wall muscles, suggesting that the endodermal axial identity is essential for coordinated pharyngeal development. Our results demonstrate an essential role of Hox genes in establishment of the AP regional identity in the pharyngeal endoderm and reveal crosstalk between endoderm and mesoderm during development of chordate pharynx.

Keywords: Ascidian; Ciona; Endoderm; Hox; Pharyngeal muscle; Pharynx.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciona intestinalis
  • Endoderm / drug effects
  • Endoderm / embryology*
  • Feedback, Physiological / drug effects
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscle Development* / drug effects
  • Pharyngeal Muscles / drug effects
  • Pharyngeal Muscles / embryology*
  • Pharynx / drug effects
  • Pharynx / embryology*
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Tretinoin