The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 52: 969 - 977 (2008)

Vol 52, Issue 7

Evolution of CUT class homeobox genes: insights from the genome of the amphioxus, Branchiostoma floridae

Short Communication | Published: 30 November -0001

Naohito Takatori and Hidetoshi Saiga*

Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Hachiohji, Japan


CUT class homeobox genes, including CUX/CASP, ONECUT, SATB and COMPASS family genes, are known to exhibit diverse features in the homeodomain and the domain architecture. Furthermore, the intron/exon organization of CUX/CASP is different between vertebrates and protostomes, and SATB genes are only known for vertebrates, whereas COMPASS genes have only been found in protostomes. These observations suggest a complex evolutionary history for the CUT class homeobox genes, but the evolution of CUT class homeobox genes in the lineage to vertebrates remained largely unknown. To obtain clearer insights into this issue, we searched the genome of amphioxus, Branchiostoma floridae, a lower chordate, for CUT class homeobox genes by extensive BLAST survey and phylogenetic analyses. We found that the genome of Branchiostoma floridae encodes each single orthologue of CUX/CASP, ONECUT, and COMPASS, but not the SATB gene, and one atypical CUT gene likely specific to this species. In addition, the genomic structure of the amphioxus CUX/CASP gene turned out to be protostome-type, but not vertebrate-type. Based on these observations, we propose a model in which SATB is suggested to evolve at the expense of COMPASS and this change, together with the structural change in CUX/CASP, is supposed to take place in the lineage to vertebrates after divergence of the amphioxus and vertebrate ancestors. The present study provides an example of dramatic evolution among homeobox gene groups in the vertebrate lineage and highlights the ancient character of amphioxus, retaining genomic features shared by protostomes.


Cux, COMPASS, Onecut, SATB, chordate

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