with Nüsslein-Volhard and Wieschaus in 1995. Lewis selected Drosophila mutants that exhibited mislocated body parts (e.g., wings in place of halteres (balancing organs) and legs in place of antennae). The term “homeotic” connotes such mislocation without distortion. In the homeotic mutant, the anteroposterior dimension of the animal has fewer anatomical differences along its length. For example, the Ubx mutant has an extra mesothorax located at the normal metathorax position but lacks a metathorax. It has four wings but no halteres, whereas normal Drosophila have two wings and two halteres. When the first two Hox genes (Ubx and Antp) were isolated, their sequences were compared (McGinnis et al. 1984a,b; Weiner et al. 1984), and a shared 60-base sequence was found, the homeobox. The sequence is the same in both genes except for a few bases. That sequence encodes the DNA-binding motif of the encoded proteins, which are members of a large and ancient family of transcription factors. The other six Hox genes were soon isolated from Drosophila, and those too had closely related homeobox sequences. Then the eight genes were shown to exist in a contiguous cluster (actually two subclusters in D. melanogaster but one in another arthropod, Tribolium), probably all tandemly duplicated and diverged from a few founder sequences in an ancestor of arthropods. Furthermore, the members are expressed in stripes in the anteroposterior dimension of the body, in an order identical to their gene order on the chromosome (a correspondence referred to as “colinearity” of gene order and expression).
In the mid-1980s frogs and mice were found to contain similar sequences, also arranged in contiguous gene clusters. Interestingly, their expression in mice showed the same anteroposterior colinearity as that in Drosophila. As an evolutionary explanation, the common ancestor of arthropods and chordates must have had a complex Hox cluster already functioning in its development. Vertebrates, however, differ from arthropods in having at least four multi-member clusters instead of one (Krumlauf 1994). A comparison of gene arrangements and domains of expression in Drosophila and mammalian (mouse) Hox clusters is shown in Figure 6-2.
Such genes are called selector genes because their encoded products, which are transcription factors, select which other genes will be expressed in that spatial compartment of the body. The thousands of target genes of a selector-gene product encode proteins involved in subsequent local development, including the many kinds of organogenesis of different parts of the body. Hox genes have a central role in development. Because of them, the coordinate, gap, and pair-rule proteins of early development do not have to directly activate those thousands of target genes in a region-specific way but activate only the Hox genes, whose encoded proteins then do the job of regulating sets of genes in their respective regions. Methods for the directed knockout of genes in mice were invented by the mid-1980s as a way to test gene function, and the Hox genes of mice were found to control aspects of local development in their compartments, especially in vertebrae, neural tube, and neural crest derivatives. Their selector role was similar to