Westerfield, M., Wegner, J., Jegalian, B.G., De Robertis, E.M., and Püschel, A.W. (1992) Specific activation of mammalian Hox promoters in mosaic transgenic zebrafish. Genes & Development. 6:591-598.
Homeo box-containing genes (Hox) are expressed in restricted regions of vertebrate embryos and may specify positional information. The organization and expression patterns of these genes are highly conserved among different species, suggesting that their regulation may also have been conserved. We developed a transient expression system, using mosaically transgenic zebrafish, which allows rapid analysis of transgene expression, and examined the activities of two mammalian Hox genes, mouse Hox-1.1 and human HOX-3.3. We found that these Hox promoters are activated in specific regions and tissues of developing zebrafish embryos and that this specificity depends upon the same regulatory elements within the promoters that specify the spatial expression of these genes in mice. Our results suggest that the promoter activities have been remarkably conserved from fish to mammals. To study the regulation of Hox expression in the developing nervous system, we analyzed the promoter activities in spt-1 mutants that have a mesodermal deficiency. Our results suggest that interactions, probably with the paraxial mesoderm, differentially regulate the activities of Hox promoters in the developing nervous system.