The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 1349 - 1358 (2009)

Vol 53, Issue 8-9-10

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in Hispania (Spain & Portugal)

Genetic control of morphogenesis - Hox induced organogenesis of the posterior spiracles

Review | Published: 1 November 2009

James Castelli-Gair Hombría*, María Luisa Rivas and Sol Sotillos

CABD, CSIC/Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla, Spain


The posterior spiracle has become one of the best systems to study how Hox genes control morphogenesis. Interaction of Abdominal-B (ABD-B) with dorso ventral and intrasegmental positional information leads to the local activation of ABD-B primary targets in the dorsal region of the eighth abdominal segment (A8). Primary targets pattern the spiracle subdividing it into two broad areas: external stigmatophore vs. internal spiracular chamber precursor cells. Primary targets then activate secondary targets and modulate the expression of signalling molecules in the spiracle primordium creating unique spiracle positional values. This genetic cascade activates the “realisator” genes that modulate the cell behaviours causing invagination, elongation and cell rearrangements responsible for spiracle morphogenesis. The spiracle realisators that have been identified to date correspond to cell adhesion proteins, cytoskeleton regulators and cell polarity molecules. Interestingly, these realisators localise to different apico-basal locations in the cell (RhoGEF apical, Crumbs subapical, E-cadherin in the adherens junction, RhoGAP basolateral). Therefore, the Hox anterior-posterior code is converted in the cell into apico-basal information required to implement the posterior spiracle morphogenetic program. We believe this may be a common characteristic for Hox induced organogenesis.


posterior spiracles, ABD-B, Hox gene, morphogenesis, organogenesis

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