that in Drosophila (Behringer et al. 1993). However, many of the target genes of Hox proteins in mice and flies are clearly different.
The Hox clusters of Drosophila and chordates are under intense study. It is now known that genes of four mouse clusters are coordinated in an elaborate circuitry of auto- and cross-activation and repression, in which the genes near the 5′ end of the DNA sequence tend to repress genes near the 3′ end when both are initially expressed in same cell. Equivalent paralogs in different clusters tend to overlap in the target genes they activate and repress, but each has some unique targets, as shown by the phenotypes of single-Hox knockout mutants of the mouse. As a whole, the Hox genes operate as a complex genetic regulatory system rather than as independent members.
More recently, the Hox-like Ems and Otd genes have been discovered in Drosophila as expressed in the head in regions anterior to the expression compartments of the Hox genes. Homologs of these genes (called Emx and Otx) have been found expressed in the head of the frog and mouse anterior to the Hox gene domains of the posterior head, thorax, and trunk. This was a surprise, because evolutionary biologists had thought that the vertebrate head is unique to that group and has little in common with the head of a common ancestor of vertebrates and arthropods. However, even that complexity of body organization, like HOX compartments, must predate the branching of arthropods and chordates.
The free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans emerged as an important model system in the 1970s, as the result of pioneering work on its genetics by S. Brenner (1974). Chosen for its short life cycle (3 days) and general amenability for genetic analysis, small size (1-mm length), transparency, and simplicity (only 959 somatic cells), C. elegans quickly attracted a following among developmental biologists and geneticists. In particular, J. Sulston was primarily responsible for first describing the complete cell lineage from fertilization to adulthood (Sulston and Horvitz 1977; Sulston et al. 1983) and then spearheading the physical mapping and DNA sequencing of the genome. C. elegans recently became the first metazoan organism whose genome is completely sequenced (C.elegans Sequencing Consortium 1998). In the meantime, researchers from many laboratories isolated mutants and identified many important genes controlling development, the result being that C. elegans is now the most completely described and one of the best understood models for development (see Chapter 7). In some ways, the development of vertebrates is more similar to that of C. elegans than of Drosophila (e.g., having a cellular rather than a syncyctial early embryo), and in other ways less similar (e.g., having a highly invariant cell lineage and a fixed small number of cells, no Sonic Hedgehog signaling pathway, and few HOX genes). These two model animals complement each other usefully for research into fundamental mechanisms of metazoan development.