The diversity of the arthropod body plan has long been a fascinating subject of study. A flurry of recent research has analyzed Hox gene expression in various arthropod groups, with hopes of gaining insight into the mechanisms that underlie their evolution. The Hox genes have been analyzed in insects, crustaceans and chelicerates. However, the expression patterns of the Hox genes have not yet been comprehensively analyzed in a myriapod. We present the expression patterns of the ten Hox genes in a centipede, Lithobius atkinsoni, and compare our results to those from studies in other arthropods. We have three major findings. First, we find that Hox gene expression is remarkably dynamic across the arthropods. The expression patterns of the Hox genes in the centipede are in many cases intermediate between those of the chelicerates and those of the insects and crustaceans, consistent with the proposed intermediate phylogenetic position of the Myriapoda. Second, we found two 'extra' Hox genes in the centipede compared with those in DROSOPHILA: Based on its pattern of expression, Hox3 appears to have a typical Hox-like role in the centipede, suggesting that the novel functions of the Hox3 homologs zen and bicoid were adopted somewhere in the crustacean-insect clade. In the centipede, the expression of the gene fushi tarazu suggests that it has both a Hox-like role (as in the mite), as well as a role in segmentation (as in insects). This suggests that this dramatic change in function was achieved via a multifunctional intermediate, a condition maintained in the centipede. Last, we found that Hox expression correlates with tagmatic boundaries, consistent with the theory that changes in Hox genes had a major role in evolution of the arthropod body plan
Exploring the myriapod body plan: expression patterns of the ten Hox genes in a centipede
Hughes, C., & Kaufman, TC. (2002). Exploring the myriapod body plan: expression patterns of the ten Hox genes in a centipede. Development (Cambridge), 129(5), 1225-1238.