A biophysical model can explain the multiscale phenomenon of collinearity of clustered HOX genes

Spyros Papageorgiou
‘Demokritos’, Athens, Greece
Presented in the Embryo Physics Course, February 15, 2012


Hox gene clusters are very frequent in many animal genomes and their role in development is pivotal. Particularly in vertebrates, intensive efforts have established several properties of Hox clusters. The collinearity of Hox gene expressions (spatial, temporal and quantitative) is a common feature of the vertebrates. During the last decade, genetic engineering experiments have revealed some important facets of collinearity during limb and trunk development in mice. Two models have been proposed to explain all these properties. On one hand the ‘two-phases model’ makes use of the molecular regulatory mechanisms acting on the Hox genes. On the other hand, the’biophysical model’ is based on the signals transduced inside the cell nucleus and the generation of forces which apply on the cluster and lead to a coordinated activation of Hox genes. The two models differ fundamentally and a critical and detailed comparison is presented. Furthermore, experiments are proposed for which the two models provide divergent predictions. The outcome of these experiments will help to decide which of the two models is valid (if any).  








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