Extensive chordate and annelid macrosynteny reveals ancestral homeobox gene organization.
Hui JH., McDougall C., Monteiro AS., Holland PW., Arendt D., Balavoine G., Ferrier DE.
Genes with the homeobox motif are crucial in developmental biology and widely implicated in the evolution of development. The Antennapedia (ANTP)-class is one of the two major classes of animal homeobox genes, and includes the Hox genes, renowned for their role in patterning the anterior-posterior axis of animals. The origin and evolution of the ANTP-class genes are a matter of some debate. A principal guiding hypothesis has been the existence of an ancient gene Mega-cluster deep in animal ancestry. This hypothesis was largely established from linkage data from chordates, and the Mega-cluster hypothesis remains to be seriously tested in protostomes. We have thus mapped ANTP-class homeobox genes to the chromosome level in a lophotrochozoan protostome. Our comparison of gene organization in Platynereis dumerilii and chordates indicates that the Mega-cluster, if it did exist, had already been broken up onto four chromosomes by the time of the protostome-deuterostome ancestor (PDA). These results not only elucidate an aspect of the genome organization of the PDA but also reveal high levels of macrosynteny between P. dumerilii and chordates. This implies a very low rate of interchromosomal genome rearrangement in the lineages leading to P. dumerilii and the chordate ancestor since the time of the PDA.