Genetic interactions between Shox2 and Hox genes during the regional growth and development of the mouse limb.
The growth and development of the vertebrate limb relies on homeobox genes of the Hox and Shox families, with their independent mutation often giving dose-dependent effects. Here we investigate whether Shox2 and Hox genes function together during mouse limb development by modulating their relative dosage and examining the limb for nonadditive effects on growth. Using double mRNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in single embryos, we first show that Shox2 and Hox genes have associated spatial expression dynamics, with Shox2 expression restricted to the proximal limb along with Hoxd9 and Hoxa11 expression, juxtaposing the distal expression of Hoxa13 and Hoxd13. By generating mice with all possible dosage combinations of mutant Shox2 alleles and HoxA/D cluster deletions, we then show that their coordinated proximal limb expression is critical to generate normally proportioned limb segments. These epistatic interactions tune limb length, where Shox2 underexpression enhances, and Shox2 overexpression suppresses, Hox-mutant phenotypes. Disruption of either Shox2 or Hox genes leads to a similar reduction in Runx2 expression in the developing humerus, suggesting their concerted action drives cartilage maturation during normal development. While we furthermore provide evidence that Hox gene function influences Shox2 expression, this regulation is limited in extent and is unlikely on its own to be a major explanation for their genetic interaction. Given the similar effect of human SHOX mutations on regional limb growth, Shox and Hox genes may generally function as genetic interaction partners during the growth and development of the proximal vertebrate limb.
Neufeld, SJ; Wang, F; Cobb, J
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