The difference between “homeobox” and “Hox” genes

The homeobox

Hox genes

Why the confusion?

  1. Scientists were studying homeotic mutants (body parts in wrong places) and discovered that the genes involved all had a highly conserved region, so it made perfect sense to call it the homeobox.
  2. Those specific genes involved in homeotic mutants came to be known as Hox genes, which also makes perfect sense. Mutations in the Hox genes cause homeotic mutants. There’s a theme here.
  3. However, scientists didn’t immediately understand that the homeobox motif would be found in many genes that aren’t Hox genes. Many homeobox genes have absolutely nothing to do with body parts growing in the right or wrong places (i.e., nothing to do with homeotic mutants) but when they named the homeobox, they only knew of the Hox genes they were discovering via the homeotic mutants.


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Jennifer Harrison

Jennifer Harrison

Science, games, LGBTQIA, feminism, neurodiversity etc.

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