Sipunculan ParaHox genes.
Ferrier DE., Holland PW.
Our perspective on the origin and evolution of the Hox gene cluster changed with the discovery of the ParaHox gene cluster in amphioxus (Cephalochordata; Branchiostoma floridae) (Brooke et al. 1998). The ParaHox gene cluster contains three homeobox genes (Gsx, Xlox, Cdx) and is deduced to be a paralogue (evolutionary sister) of the Hox gene cluster. If this deduction is correct, animals with Hox genes should also possess ParaHox genes. Paradoxically, however, only deuterostome animals have thus far been shown to contain all three ParaHox genes. Here we report the cloning of all three ParaHox genes from each of two species within the phylum Sipuncula. This is the first demonstration of all three ParaHox genes in the genome of a protostome animal and confirms that the common ancestor of protostomes and deuterostomes possessed all three ParaHox genes. Furthermore, it implies that the ParaHox genes are of sufficient functional importance in both protostomes and deuterostomes that they have all been conserved in both of these bilaterian clades.