Evidence of a role for T-box genes in the evolution of limb morphogenesis and the specification of forelimb/hindlimb identity

Mech Dev. 1996 May;56(1-2):93-101. doi: 10.1016/0925-4773(96)00514-x.


Tetrapod fore-and hindlimbs have evolved from the pectoral and pelvic fins of an ancient vertebrate ancestor. In this ancestor, the pectoral fin appears to have arisen following the rostral homeotic recapitulation of an existing pelvic appendage (Tabin and Laufer (1993), Nature 361, 692-693). Thus the basic appendage outgrowth program is reiterated in both tetrapod fore- and hindlimbs and the pectoral and pelvic fins of extant teleost fishes (Sordino et al. (1995) Nature 375, 678-681). Recently a novel family of putative transcription factors, which includes the T (Brachyury) locus, has been identified and dubbed the "T-box' family. In mice, all of these genes have expression patterns indicative of involvement in embryonic induction (Chapman et al. (1996) Dev. Dyn., in press), and four (Tbx2-Tbx5) are represented as two cognate, linked gene pairs (Agulnik et al., (1996), Genetics, in press). We now report that, whereas Tbx2 and Tbx3 are expressed in similar spatiotemporal patterns in both limbs, Tbx5 and Tbx4 expression is primarily restricted to the developing fore- and hindlimb buds, respectively. These observations suggest that T-box genes have played a role in the evolution of fin and limb morphogenesis, and that Tbx5 and Tbx4 may have been divergently selected to play a role in the differential specification of fore- (pectoral) versus hind- (pelvic) limb (fin) identity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Embryonic Induction / genetics
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development*
  • Female
  • Fetal Proteins / genetics
  • Fetal Proteins / physiology*
  • Forelimb / embryology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Hindlimb / embryology*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Morphogenesis / genetics
  • Multigene Family*
  • T-Box Domain Proteins*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Fetal Proteins
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Brachyury protein