Hox and ParaHox gene expression in early body plan patterning of polyplacophoran mollusks


  • Current address: Martin Fritsch, Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science, Invalidenstraße 43, Berlin 10115, Germany.

  • Grant sponsor: German Science Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG; project FR 3392/1-1); Grant sponsor: ASSEMBLE; grant number: 227799; Grant sponsor: ASSEMBLE; grant number: 835 (SBR-1); Grant sponsor: Austrian Science Fund (FWF); grant number: P24276-B22.

  • Conflict of interest: None.


Molecular developmental studies of various bilaterians have shown that the identity of the anteroposterior body axis is controlled by Hox and ParaHox genes. Detailed Hox and ParaHox gene expression data are available for conchiferan mollusks, such as gastropods (snails and slugs) and cephalopods (squids and octopuses), whereas information on the putative conchiferan sister group, Aculifera, is still scarce (but see Fritsch et al., 2015 on Hox gene expression in the polyplacophoran Acanthochitona crinita). In contrast to gastropods and cephalopods, the Hox genes in polyplacophorans are expressed in an anteroposterior sequence similar to the condition in annelids and other bilaterians. Here, we present the expression patterns of the Hox genes Lox5, Lox4, and Lox2, together with the ParaHox gene caudal (Cdx) in the polyplacophoran A. crinita. To localize Hox and ParaHox gene transcription products, we also investigated the expression patterns of the genes FMRF and Elav, and the development of the nervous system. Similar to the other Hox genes, all three Acr-Lox genes are expressed in an anteroposterior sequence. Transcripts of Acr-Cdx are seemingly present in the forming hindgut at the posterior end. The expression patterns of both the central class Acr-Lox genes and the Acr-Cdx gene are strikingly similar to those in annelids and nemerteans. In Polyplacophora, the expression patterns of the Hox and ParaHox genes seem to be evolutionarily highly conserved, while in conchiferan mollusks these genes are co-opted into novel functions that might have led to evolutionary novelties, at least in gastropods and cephalopods.