Regulatory evolution of the Hox1 gene


I've been getting swamped with links to this hot article, "Evolution reversed in mice," including one from my brother (hi, Mike!). It really is excellent and provocative and interesting work from Tvrdik and Capecchi, but the news slant is simply weird—they didn't take "a mouse back in time," nor did they "reverse evolution." They restored the regulatory state of one of the Hox genes to a condition like that found half a billion years ago, and got a viable mouse; it gives us information about the specializations that occurred in these genes after their duplication early in chordate history. I am rather amused at the photos the news stories are all running of a mutant mouse, as if it has become a primeval creature. It's two similar genes out of a few tens of thousands, operating in a modern mammal! The ancestral state the authors are studying would have been present in a fish in the Cambrian.

I can see where what they've actually accomplished is difficult to explain to a readership that doesn't even know what the Hox genes are. I've written an overview of Hox genes previously, so if you want to bone up real quick, go ahead; otherwise, though, I'll summarize the basics and tell you what the experiment really did.

Continue reading "Regulatory evolution of the Hox1 gene" (on Pharyngula)