Zebrafish hox clusters and vertebrate genome evolution.
HOX genes specify cell fate in the anterior-posterior axis of animal embryos. Invertebrate chordates have one HOX cluster, but mammals have four, suggesting that cluster duplication facilitated the evolution of vertebrate body plans. This report shows that zebrafish have seven hox clusters. Phylogenetic analysis and genetic mapping suggest a chromosome doubling event, probably by whole genome duplication, after the divergence of ray-finned and lobe-finned fishes but before the teleost radiation. Thus, teleosts, the most species-rich group of vertebrates, appear to have more copies of these developmental regulatory genes than do mammals, despite less complexity in the anterior-posterior axis.