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Chapter: Genetics and Molecular Biology: Genes Regulating Development

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Similarities Among Developmental Genes

The sequences of the fushi tarazu and Antennapedia genes revealed that they encoded protein, and more importantly, that over a stretch of about 60 amino acid residues, the sequences of the two proteins were even more highly conserved than the corresponding coding DNA sequences.

Similarities Among Developmental Genes

The sequences of the fushi tarazu and Antennapedia genes revealed that they encoded protein, and more importantly, that over a stretch of about 60 amino acid residues, the sequences of the two proteins were even more highly conserved than the corresponding coding DNA sequences. A portion of another homeotic developmental gene complex, bithorax, also possessed a closelrelated sequence. This sequence is now called a homeo box. With the conservation of the homeo box among three proteins, it seemed likely to be present in other developmental regula-tors from the fly as well as in closely related organisms. This proved to be true. Not only do other species of Drosophila contain homeo boxes; so do all higher organisms, including humans. Typically a Southern transfer of genomic DNA hybridized to a homeo sequence reveals five to ten similar sequences. If hybridization at low stringency is performed, less closely related sequences are revealed. These have been cloned and sequenced, yielding the expected more variable homeo-like sequences. Such sequences can be used again to find still less closely related genes. Many organisms possess multiple clusters of four or five homeo box proteins.

Homeo boxes were also noticed to be similar to the alpha mating-type factors of yeast which were known to bind to DNA. Therefore it seemed likely that proteins containing a homeo-box sequence bind to DNA. This is true. Homeo-box domains bind DNA, and the structure of several has been determined. The homeo-box fits into the major groove of the DNA, but its positioning is notably different from that of the helix-turn-helix motif. Not all developmental genes possess homeo boxes. A number of other DNA-binding motifs are utilized, including zinc finger, zinc do-mains, helix-loop-helix proteins and others.


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