Crustacean appendage evolution associated with changes in Hox gene expression

Nature. 1997 Aug 14;388(6643):682-6. doi: 10.1038/41786.


Homeotic (Hox) genes specify the differential identity of segments along the body axis of insects. Changes in the segmental organization of arthropod bodies may therefore be driven by changes in the function of Hox genes, but so far this has been difficult to demonstrate. We show here that changes in the expression pattern of the Hox genes Ubx and AbdA in different crustaceans correlate well with the modification of their anterior thoracic limbs into feeding appendages (maxillipeds). Our observations provide direct evidence that major morphological changes in arthropod body plans are associated with changes in Hox gene regulation. They suggest that homeotic changes may play a role in the normal process of adaptive evolutionary change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Patterning
  • Crustacea / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins
  • Mouth
  • Nuclear Proteins*
  • Phylogeny
  • Transcription Factors*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Ubx protein, Drosophila
  • abd-A protein, Drosophila