The conservation of developmental functions exerted by Antp-class homeoproteins in protostomes and deuterostomes suggested that homologs with related functions are present in diploblastic animals. Our phylogenetic analyses showed that Antp-class homeodomains belong either to non-Hox or to Hox/paraHox families. Among the 13 non-Hox families, 9 have diploblastic homologs, Msx, Emx, Barx, Evx, Tlx, NK-2, and Prh/Hex, Not, and Dlx, reported here. Among the Hox/paraHox, poriferan sequences were not found, and the cnidarian sequences formed at least five distinct cnox families. Two are significantly related to the paraHox Gsx (cnox-2) and the mox (cnox-5) sequences, whereas three display some relatedness to the Hox paralog groups 1 (cnox-1), 9/10 (cnox-3) and the paraHox cdx (cnox-4). Intermediate Hox/paraHox genes (PG 3 to 8 and lox) did not have clear cnidarian counterparts. In Hydra, cnox-1, cnox-2, and cnox-3 were not found chromosomally linked within a 150-kb range and displayed specific expression patterns in the adult head. During regeneration, cnox-1 was expressed as an early gene whatever the polarity, whereas cnox-2 was up-regulated later during head but not foot regeneration. Finally, cnox-3 expression was reestablished in the adult head once it was fully formed. These results suggest that the Hydra genes related to anterior Hox/paraHox genes are involved at different stages of apical differentiation. However, the positional information defining the oral/aboral axis in Hydra cannot be correlated strictly to that characterizing the anterior-posterior axis in vertebrates or arthropods.
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