Scemama, J.L., Hunter, M., McCallum, J., Prince, V., and Stellwag, E. (2002) Evolutionary divergence of vertebrate Hoxb2 expression patterns and transcriptional regulatory loci. The Journal of experimental zoology. 294(3):285-299.
Hox gene expression is regulated by a complex array of cis-acting elements that control spatial and temporal gene expression in developing embryos. Here, we report the isolation of the striped bass Hoxb2a gene, comparison of its expression to the orthologous gene from zebrafish, and comparative genomic analysis of the upstream regulatory region to that of other vertebrates. Comparison of the Hoxb2a gene expression patterns from striped bass to zebrafish revealed similar expression patterns within rhombomeres 3, 4, and 5 of the hindbrain but a notable absence of expression in neural crest tissues of striped bass while neural crest expression is observed in zebrafish and common to other vertebrates. Comparative genomic analysis of the striped bass Hoxb2a-b3a intergenic region to those from zebrafish, pufferfish, human, and mouse demonstrated the presence of common Meis, Hox/Pbx, Krox-20, and Box 1 elements, which are necessary for rhombomere 3, 4, and 5 expression. Despite their common occurrence, the location and orientation of these transcription elements differed among the five species analyzed, such that Krox-20 and Box 1 elements are located 3' to the Meis, Hox/Pbx elements in striped bass, pufferfish, and human while they are located 5' of this r4 enhancer in zebrafish and mouse. Our results suggest that the plasticity exhibited in the organization of key regulatory elements responsible for rhombomere-specific Hoxb2a expression may reflect the effects of stabilizing selection in the evolution cis-acting elements.