An atlas of seven zebrafish hox cluster mutants provides insights into sub/neofunctionalization of vertebrate Hox clusters

Development. 2021 Jun 1;148(11):dev198325. doi: 10.1242/dev.198325. Epub 2021 Jun 7.


Vertebrate Hox clusters are comprised of multiple Hox genes that control morphology and developmental timing along multiple body axes. Although results of genetic analyses using Hox-knockout mice have been accumulating, genetic studies in other vertebrates have not been sufficient for functional comparisons of vertebrate Hox genes. In this study, we isolated all of the seven hox cluster loss-of-function alleles in zebrafish using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. Comprehensive analysis of the embryonic phenotype and X-ray micro-computed tomography scan analysis of adult fish revealed several species-specific functional contributions of homologous Hox clusters along the appendicular axis, whereas important shared general principles were also confirmed, as exemplified by serial anterior vertebral transformations along the main body axis, observed in fish for the first time. Our results provide insights into discrete sub/neofunctionalization of vertebrate Hox clusters after quadruplication of the ancient Hox cluster. This set of seven complete hox cluster loss-of-function alleles provide a formidable resource for future developmental genetic analysis of the Hox patterning system in zebrafish.

Keywords: Hox genes; Sub/neofunctionalization; Vertebrate evolution; X-ray CT scan; Zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Gene Duplication
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genes, Homeobox / genetics*
  • Male
  • Multigene Family*
  • Mutation
  • Skeleton / anatomy & histology
  • Skeleton / growth & development
  • Species Specificity
  • X-Ray Microtomography
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / genetics*
  • Zebrafish / physiology*