Characterization of Hoxa-10/Hoxa-11 transheterozygotes reveals functional redundancy and regulatory interactions

William W. Branford, Gail V. Benson, Liang Ma, Richard L. Maas, S. Steven Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Hox genes show related sequences and overlapping expression domains that often reflect functional redundancy as well as a common evolutionary origin. To accurately define their functions, it has become necessary to compare phenotypes of mice with single and multiple Hox gene mutations. Here, we focus on two Abd-B-type genes, Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11, which are coexpressed in developing vertebrae, limbs, and reproductive tracts. To assess possible functional redundancy between these two genes, Hoxa-10/Hoxa-11 transheterozygotes were produced by genetic intercrosses and analyzed. This compound mutation resulted in synergistic defects in transheterozygous limbs and reproductive tracts, but not in vertebrae. In the forelimb, distal radial/ulnar thickening and pisiform/triangular carpal fusion were observed in 35 and 21% of transheterozygotes, respectively, but were effectively absent in Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11 +/- forelimbs. In the hindlimb, distal tibial/fibular thickening and loss of tibial/fibular fusion were observed in >80% of transheterozygotes but in no Hoxa-10 or Hoxa-11 +/- hindlimbs, and all transheterozygotes displayed reduced medial patellar sesamoids, compared to modest incidences in Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11 +/- mutants. Furthermore, while the reproductive tracts of Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11 single heterozygous mutants of both sexes were primarily unaffected, male transheterozygotes displayed cryptorchidism and abnormal tortuosity of the ductus deferens, and female transheterozygotes exhibited abnormal uterotubal junctions and narrowing of the uterus. In addition we observed that the targeted mutations of Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11 each affected the expression of the other gene in the developing prevertebra and reproductive tracts. These results provide a measure of the functional redundancy of Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11 and a deeper understanding of the phenotypes resulting in the single mutants and help elucidate the regulatory interactions between these two genes. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-387
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 15 2000


  • Functional redundancy
  • Hox genes
  • Limbs
  • Reproductive tract


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